Elmar Degenhart has been at the helm of the second largest automotive supplier since 2009. Nikolai Setzer is now replacing the long-standing Conti boss. The new one should steer the group through the painful industry upheaval. Can he take the insecure workforce with him?
Hanover – Nikolai Setzer becomes the new CEO of Continental. This was announced by the Dax group from Hanover on Thursday after a corresponding decision by the supervisory board. The 49-year-old manager and previous head of the automotive supplier core division at Conti succeeds Elmar Degenhart, who asked for his contract to be terminated early at the end of October.
Setzer is a native of the company and is considered to be well connected internally. The industrial engineer had already been traded as a promising candidate. Now he is to take over the management of the world’s second largest supplier after Bosch on December 1. According to Continental, he was appointed until March 2024.
After working in development, Setzer first gained management experience in the core business with tires. In 2009 he became the board member for car tires and later for the entire area. From May 2015 to March 2019 he was responsible for the Group’s procurement, after which Setzer took over the management of the automotive business.
Health reasons for early withdrawal
Degenhart, whose contract would actually have run until August 2024, had given health reasons for his early withdrawal. Most recently, the works council, the trade unions and politicians in particular had criticized the Conti leadership. In addition to the difficult transformation of the group from a mechanical and hydraulic company to an electronics and software company, there was a slump in sales during the corona crisis. On the other hand, the owners allegedly called for even more determined austerity measures.
At Conti, 30,000 jobs are to be relocated, canceled or converted for new qualifications as part of the “Transformation 2019-2029” strategy – including 13,000 in Germany. From the point of view of the executive floor, this is not possible without plant closings.
Effects for other locations
New jobs are being created at the same time in promising areas. However, cuts caused deep uncertainty in the workforce, which were decided for the overall profitable tire division: The end of production at the Aachen plant with 1,800 employees came only through the supervisory board because the capital side overruled the employee side. Other locations are also to be downsized, rebuilt or closed entirely.
Works council chairman Hasan Allak had also attacked the board because of a lack of agreements. After the announcement of Degenhart’s withdrawal, he said that “no experiments” at Continental were desirable in the current situation. Setzer is described as assertive, but also as communicative. Supervisory board chairman Wolfgang Reitzle had spoken out in favor of continuity in management.