In this March 16, 2009 file photo, Titan Tire Corporation President Maury Taylor shows a poster during a news conference, in Des Moines, Iowa.

France has issued a veiled threat to take revenge against an American tycoon who suggested its workers are lazy.

When the French government asked Maurice Taylor’s firm to take over a failing tyre factory in Amiens, he declined, saying: “How stupid do you think we are?”

The plain-talking chief executive of the US tyre firm Titan International went on to deride France’s “so-called workers” who get “one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three”.

His comments provoked fury in France, where industry minister Arnaud Montebourg accused him of “perfect ignorance”.

In a letter to the financial daily Les Echos, he suggested that if Titan, which has a UK plant in Kidderminster, tried to sell tyres in France, the authorities would have their revenge. “You can count on me to have the competent government agencies survey your imported tyres with a redoubled zeal,” he said.

Mr Taylor has said he might buy a Chinese or Indian firm to export cheap tyres to France, but the minister’s threat is unlikely to trouble a man known as ‘The Grizz’ for his tough negotiating style.

Mr Montebourg said there were 4 200 US firms in France, and ‘in contrast to your ridiculous and derogatory comments, all these companies know and appreciate the quality and productivity of the French workforce’. - Daily Mail