* The tire and rubber specialist from Hanover has grown to be a leading international automotive supplier.
* Today, Continental employs approximately 160,000 people at more than 190 locations worldwide.
Hanover, October 2011. The international automotive supplier Continental celebrates its 140th anniversary on October 8. Over the past decade in particular, the Hanover-based company, originally founded in 1871, has continued to grow from its beginnings as a specialist solely for tires and rubber products into a leading global automotive supplier. “We are there to meet the demands of our customers and business partners around the globe as a competent and reliable partner and, at the same time, help significantly shape the current automotive megatrends of safety, information, the environment and affordable vehicles,” said Continental Executive Board chairman Dr. Elmar Degenhart. “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, ongoing internationalization strategy and wide-ranging product portfolio in diverse business areas.”
Nine Hanover-based bankers and industrialists founded Continental-Caoutchouc & Gutta-Percha Compagnie as a joint stock company on October 8, 1871. The joint stock at the time – around 300,000 thalers – corresponds to a present-day purchasing power of approximately 6.3 million euros. At the parent plant in Hanover, an initial workforce of around 200 employees manufactured, among other things, soft rubber products such as hot water bottles, toy dolls and rubberized fabrics, as well as solid tires for carriages and bicycles. Sales in the 1880s amounted to roughly 3.3 million marks. That corresponds to a present-day purchasing power of around 21.5 million euros. By way of comparison, the Continental Corporation reported worldwide sales of 26 billion euros in 2010. This year, the company is striving for sales of at least 29.5 billion euros.
In the late 1920s, major companies in the German rubber industry merged to form Continental Gummi-Werke AG. The company first began to develop its international orientation in the early 1980s, when it acquired the European tire operations of the American company Uniroyal Inc., took over the North American tire manufacturer General Tire, and purchased majority holdings in the Portuguese company Mabor and the Czech tiremaker Barum. This enabled Continental to carry its international activities well beyond Europe’s borders.
At the end of the 1990s, the Continental Corporation revamped its strategy. The first step in this direction was taken in 1998 with the purchase of the ITT Industries automotive brake & chassis operations (Teves). In 2001, Continental acquired the international electronics specialist Temic from Daimler. In doing so, Continental, as a tire and rubber specialist, gave itself a second mainstay in the automotive supplies business. This made it better able to cushion the ups and downs in business. The acquisition of Motorola’s automotive electronics business in 2006 expanded Continental’s activities in telematics, and elsewhere. “With the biggest acquisition to date in the company’s history – the takeover of Siemens VDO Automotive AG – Continental advanced to the premier league of automotive suppliers worldwide. It also enabled us to simultaneously strengthen our market position in Europe, North America and Asia,” explained Dr. Degenhart.
Right from the very beginning, Continental has possessed outstanding expertise in the field of technology. In 1904, it became the first company in the world to develop car tires with tread patterns. It was also first with removable rims for touring cars in 1908 and the first German company to make tubeless tires in 1943. Launched in 1932, Continental Schwingmetall, a range of special rubber-to-metal bonded products, provided engine mounts and bearings that dampen vibrations and noise.
Up to the present day, Continental has continued to develop its key technologies and bring them to production readiness. In 1998, Continental began standard production of electronic stability control (ESC), a trend-setting, active safety system. This year, Continental is launching the fourth generation ESC, the MK 100®. Over 80% of all new registered vehicles in Germany alone are now fitted with ESC systems made by various manufacturers. 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. This September, Continental began volume production of a highly efficient synchronous machine with components manufactured without using rare-earth materials for a fully electric vehicle. Continental received the “Idea of the Year 2011” award for its eco-friendly printing blankets. Manufacturing these blankets produces as much as 70% fewer CO2emissions.
The host of initial patents filed each year also serves to document Continental’s innovative prowess. In 2011, the company’s various groups and divisions are likely to file around 1,100 patent applications.
To mark the occasion of Continental’s anniversary, various individual celebrations have already been held throughout the year at many of the 190 Continental locations around the world. In mid-September for example, for the “W/I/R – Family & Friends Employee Day”, the company’s location in Regensburg was transformed into an amusement park and several thousand employees brought their friends and family along to join in the fun. The lobby of the corporate headquarters in Hanover is currently home to a small exhibition, featuring items from Continental’s 140-year history.
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