By Denna Bowman
Michelin tyres plan to axe 2,900 French jobs – about 10% of its domestic workforce – as part of a dramatic reorganisation to focus on higher-margin tyres.
The world’s second largest tyres maker will cut 1,093 posts in 2009 as it focuses production of tyres for light trucks and high performance cars at two sites.
In addition, Michelin will negotiate 1,800 further voluntary departures over the next three years, according to spokesman Fabrice Lenica.
Mr Lenica said: “Our objective is to carry through this reorganisation with no firings.”
The French company insisted the production shake-up is necessary to “maintain Michelin’s industrial activities in France”.
Tyre makers, including Continental, have reduced production in higher-cost countries as the recession reduces sales and profit.
Until now, Michelin had avoided politically sensitive plant closures in France. Just last month chief executive Officer Michel Rollier said that there were no plans to cut jobs.
Under the plans announced today, Michelin will close a small plant in the northern town of Seclin, transferring production of sports-car tyres to a factory near Clermont- Ferrand in central France.
Michelin will also move some light-truck tyre production to Cholet in western France from a plant in Germany.
Among the 1,093 employees affected by the initial plan, 495 positions will be eliminated through early retirement.
The remaining workers will be offered at least two other positions elsewhere, Michelin said. The 1,800 additional job cutbacks will involve all operations in France, not just production.
The company will end production of tyre rubber at Tours in central France and upgrade the plant to specialise in higher-end truck tyre.
Michelin will invest 50 million euros in converting its plant in Montceau to specialise in large, high-margin tyres for construction and earthmoving equipment, and an additional 100 million euros in research and development at headquarters.