Driving the future
Continental continues to prove why it is a leader in such a high profile and global industry
The Continental Corporation began its journey back in 1871 in Hanover manufacturing soft rubber products, rubberised fabrics and solid tyres for carriages and bicycles. Over its history the company has grown to become one of the most recognisable and most respected names in the automotive industry, and it has the milestones to match such a reputation. In 1904, for instance, it introduced the world’s first patterned tread automobile tyre, in 1908 it invented the detachable rim to make it easier to change a tyre and in 1926 it introduced carbon black to its tyre products as a reinforcing filter giving the tyre its characteristic colour.
Cutting edge innovation has remained the key driver to Continental’s success throughout its entire history and today the company ranks among the top five automotive suppliers in the world. At present its organisation is split across five divisions: chassis and safety, power train, interior, tyres and ContiTech. Amongst these divisions everything from brake systems, power train and chassis components and systems, instrumentation and infotainment solutions to tyres, vehicle electronics and technical elastomers is covered.
Giving some sense of the scale and success of Continental. In 2014, the company and its 200,000-plus employees achieved sales of 34.5 billion euros and expected sales in 2015 to increase by nine per cent to 37.5 billion euros. However, at the end of 2015 Q3, figures were above expected at 29 billion euros and the annual forecast rose to more than 39 billion euros putting it well on course to achieve its 2020 targets of over 50 billion euros. Part of this has been driven by consistent innovation – as of September 2015 1.9 billion euros had been spent on R&D – but growth has also come from significant acquisitions throughout the year.
Perhaps what Continental is most recognised for throughout the world is its tyre offerings and bringing ever improving products to the passenger, heavy vehicle agricultural, construction and two-wheeled markets remains a central part of the corporation. Driving safe, sustainable and quality improving innovations into this market is at the top of its agenda with around a third of all cars in Europe driving on Continental tyres. Illustrating its leading position, out of 575 industry tests carried out on the company’s passenger vehicle products since 2007, 78 per cent of them have resulted in the brand receiving the highest recommendation.
However, tyres have not always been the firm’s sole focus. In fact, in 1909 it produced the Aeroplan material used on the flying surfaces of Louis Blériot’s first cross-channel monoplane. Delivering other innovations to its industries has always been a key part of Continental and it still continues to cement its position in new markets through a number of other products and solutions. For instance, Continental’s Automotive division supplies everything from electronic and hydraulic brake and chassis control systems to sensors, advanced driver assistance systems, airbag electronics and a whole host of other essential components, including hybrid technology, to OEMs across the industry. Its subsidiary ATE also manufactures and supplies the global aftermarket with OE-quality ceramic brake pads.
One significant innovation within the automotive division has recently been on V2X communication technology (Vehicle-to-X), which looks to create a real-time network of communication between cars and other vulnerable road users. Using short-range communication technology between car and, for instance, a cyclist’s smartphone, which can both exchange position data it is hoped that collisions can be avoided and accident severity dramatically reduced. This type of development goes hand in hand with Continental’s focus on its SensePlanAct technology programme, which looks at creating different solutions that will be key to creating autonomous cars, or semi-autonomous cars, that can intervene in the control of a vehicle.
In addition to the automotive and rubber divisions is ContiTech, a division especially focused on rubber and plastics technology, which acts as a global development partner and OEM to a number of industries from automotive and rail, to shipping and aviation. Its extensive range of products and innovations revolve around the principles of being flexible, thermally stable, formable, abrasion-resistant, reversible and eco-friendly and lend themselves to combinations with other materials such as glass, metal and ceramics. As an example of Conti-Tech’s cutting edge products in November 2015 its power transmission business launched the Conti-V Advance belt, a narrow-section V-belt suitable for high-performance applications with an increase of over 40 per cent in power potential compared to standard belts. With the product being much narrower and more power efficient, narrower drives with fewer belts can be designed thus helping to reduce system costs.
Across its vast history, Continental has consistently proven itself to be at the forefront of automotive technology and therefore a critical partner to any OEM within a number of industries around the world. Much of this drive revolves around what the company calls ‘megatrends’ – these being safety, environment, information and affordable cars. A close look at its ongoing investments and developments clearly illustrates its commitment to these issues. Moving forward, the group shows no signs of slowing down or straying from these commitments as it looks to bring better solutions and greater value to its customers and in turn create a safer, more efficient, more comfortable, and even more intelligent future of mobility.
Services: A leading supplier to the global automotive industry