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Continental celebrates 140-year anniversary

10 Jan 2012

Today, the leading international tyre and rubber specialist employs approximately 160,000 people at more than 190 locations worldwide but the company came from humble beginnings.

continental 104 year celebration factory workers posters

Originally founded in 1871, Continental celebrates its 140th anniversary this month. The Hanover-based automotive supplier has continued to grow into a leading global automotive supplier from its roots as a specialist solely for tyres and rubber products.

Nine Hanover-based bankers and industrialists founded Continental-Caoutchouc & Gutta-Percha Compagnie as a joint stock company in 1871. An initial workforce of around 200 employees manufactured soft rubber products and rubberized fabrics, as well as solid tyres for carriages and bicycles. In 1904, it became the first company in the World to develop car tyres with tread patterns. It was also first with removable rims for touring cars in 1908 and the first German company to make tubeless tyres in 1943.

Sales in the 1880s amounted to roughly 3.3 million marks, corresponding to a present-day purchasing power of around EUR21.5 million. By comparison, the Continental Corporation reported worldwide sales of EUR26 billion in 2010. This year, the business is striving for sales of at least EUR29.5 billion.

The company first began to develop its international orientation in the early 1980s, acquiring the European tyre operations of the American company Uniroyal Inc., taking over the North American manufacturer General Tire, and purchasing majority holdings in the Portuguese company Mabor and the Czech tyre manufacturer Barum.

continental 104 year celebration car on the road poster

Continental has continued to develop its key technologies. In 1998 the company began standard production of electronic stability control (ESC), a trend-setting active safety system. Hybrid drive technology was already in the Continental portfolio as far back as 1997. In 2009, Continental was the first manufacturer worldwide to launch series production of lithium-ion batteries for use in vehicles with hybrid drives.

Continental Executive Board chairman Dr. Elmar Degenhart said ‘Our workforce totaling some 160,000 employees worldwide forms the basis on which we can successfully pursue our strategy of profitable growth. Other contributing factors include our wealth of experience, innovative prowess and wide-ranging product portfolio in diverse business areas.’

In the UK, the tyre division is based in West Drayton, Middlesex. Continental Tyre Group Ltd’s main brands are Continental, Uniroyal, and Semperit.

UK Managing Director David Smith said; ‘Continental may have started small but today the company is a substantial player in the automotive world. We are largely known for our tyres as that is the main consumer facing business and not many people know about our expertise in other automotive areas. As a manufacturer of brake systems, powertrain and chassis components and systems, vehicle instrumentation, infotainment solutions and vehicle electronics, we work extremely closely with the car manufacturers before a new vehicle comes onto the market. This, and the premium quality of our products, is what gives us our leading original equipment position with one in three vehicles manufactured in Europe leaving the factory fitted with Continental Tyres.‘

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