Martien de Louw, the top executive of Continental A.G.'s passenger and light truck tires division since February 2003, has left the company ``due to differing views over the business strategy.''
Continental Executive Board Chairman Manfred Wennemer will take over responsibility for the passenger/light truck tires division in addition to his function as chairman, the tire maker said.
Mr. de Louw, who also served as Continental Tire North America Inc. (CTNA) president/CEO, is the division's second top executive to exit after a relatively short time at the helm. Ulrich Wellen was CTNA president for a little more than a year before leaving in spring 2003. During its 2002 dealer meeting Mr. Wellen described CTNA as a ``permanent loss maker for the past three years'' and declared himself its ``fix-it guy.''
Prior to Mr. Wellen, Bernd Frangenberg had headed the Charlotte, N.C.-based unit for eight years before retiring in 2002.
Alan Hippe, Conti executive board member responsible for finance, controlling and law, is taking on the responsibility for the passenger and light truck tire business in North America and assuming the position of president and CEO of CTNA for a limited period of time, Conti said.
Conti declined a request by Tire Business to comment further on Mr. de Louw's departure. Mr. de Louw was unavailable for comment.
During his short time with Continental, the passenger/light truck tire division reported increased sales and earnings, although the unit's North American operations were in the red throughout his tenure. The company earlier this year stated the North American business should hit break-even by the fourth quarter, as the impact of higher prices, increased sales of lower-cost imported tires and restructuring takes effect.
The biggest change to occur during Mr. de Louw's tenure was the phasing out of tire production at CTNA's Mayfield, Ky., plant, an event for which Conti took $129 million in charges against earnings. The firm also booked $64 million last year in ``impairment'' costs to cover ``unsatisfactory results'' at its Charlotte, N.C., plant.
A native of the Netherlands, Mr. de Louw, 59, joined Conti from DAF Trucks, a subsidiary of the Paccar Group in Seattle. Prior to joining DAF in 1972 he spent time with Group Michelin companies in Germany and France and at Philips Netherlands.
Mr. Hippe, 38, has been with Conti since 2002, prior to which he was in charge of controlling, finances and accounting for the company that operates the Frankfurt/Main, Germany, airport.
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Conti's PLT Division
Continental A.G.'s Passenger and Light Truck Tires division-headed by Martien de Louw from February 2003 to this month-has generally seen gains over the past years despite losses in North America. Continental no longer reports North American results separately, and it has not disclosed the extent of the recent losses.
Annual sales results for the PLT division as a whole:
* 2004-$5.09 billion*
* 2003-$4.84 billion
* 2002-$4.68 billion
* 2001-$4.98 billion
Annual earnings before interest and taxes for the division:
* 2004-$475.4 million
* 2003-$428.8 million
* 2002-$228.9 million
* 2001-$177.4 million
* All currency translations are based on the average euro to U.S. dollar value average for 2004.
Source: Continental A.G.