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Continental: Value-added Hungary ‘a key European Manufacturing Location’

Manufacturing

Matthias Matic

Matthias Matic is the head of Continental’s Safety and Motion business area and a board member for the Automotive Group. In mid-February, he visited the company’s facilities in Hungary and spoke with the Budapest Business Journal.

BBJ: You recently visited Hungary. Can you tell us the nature of your trip here and how often you see the Hungarian operations?

Matthias Matic: Both the automotive industry and Continental are in the middle of a transformation. In such times, we clearly need the right strategy to bring our vision to reality. This year, my business area had one of our global strategy workshops in Budapest. I try to visit Hungary almost every year, and my team members are even more frequent guests here.

BBJ: The Safety and Motion (SAM) business area you head has manufacturing and R&D facilities in Budapest and Veszprém. What does Continental do at each Hungarian site?

MM: Continental has 12 locations in eight cities in Hungary, including our two SAM sites, which have a vast portfolio in electronic manufacturing and related product and software development. Our two facilities here focus mainly on innovative electronic brake systems and associated sensors. In Budapest, we have an industry 4.0 pioneer manufacturing plant with additional R&D teams. In Veszprém, beyond other activities, we’re developing brake systems from scratch, testing them on our own test track, and also manufacturing these innovations.

BBJ: In financial terms, how significant are the Hungarian operations to Continental’s global business, and what role do Budapest and Veszprém play in the innovation capabilities of the worldwide company?

MM: Generally speaking, Continental generated around 47% of its sales in Europe last year. In the same period, the SAM business area I am responsible for achieved global sales of around EUR 6.8 billion. Budapest and Veszprém have significant contributions globally when it comes to innovation. The Budapest plant is a state-of-the-art facility with a unique competency in rolling out industry 4.0 solutions in manufacturing. In Veszprém, beyond software and product development, testing and manufacturing of brake systems and sensors, our colleagues also provide engineering services for the global automotive industry. Furthermore, outside SAM, Continental has an innovation hub, our largest AI center, in downtown Budapest working on autonomous mobility.

BBJ: What did you say to the Hungarian management team during your visit here? What needs to be done to improve the competitiveness of the Hungarian locations?

MM: I expressed my appreciation to our colleagues for their excellent contribution to our global efforts. We discussed where they need to focus in these transformational times and reviewed the future of the automotive industry in general. Due to the increase in value-adding activities, price per performance is the name of the game. So, the key to future success is investing in our people to grow in crucial competencies and striving for an innovative and continuous improvement mindset.

BBJ: SAM is part of Continental’s automotive business, where you are a board member. A lot of the attention here is on automated driving and electric vehicles. EVs are already present (and the Hungarian government has made the sector a priority investment area); automation is a work in progress. How do you see them developing?

MM: In the upcoming years, autonomous vehicles will change the industry’s understanding of mobility. The market for assisted and automated driving will continue to grow, and global safety regulations intensify every year, which results in a growing need for solutions in this field. We are already driving forward the increasing degree of vehicle automation with safe, supportive, and complementary full-stack system solutions and respective functionalities for assisted, automated, and ultimately autonomous driving in the future.

As you outlined, EVs are already a part of today’s mobility. However, the share of EVs will increase furthermore. Since the spin-off from Vitesco Technologies, Continental has been relatively independent of the powertrain. Nevertheless, we at SAM develop specific solutions supporting this type of drive. Examples are our so-called dry-brake systems, which do not use brake fluid to actuate the brakes. Instead, you use electric actuators directly on the brake. Next to this, we offer special sensors for EVs, like one that detects if your battery is physically damaged.

BBJ: What part do you think Continental will play in this future in Hungary?

MM: During this journey, we count on the excellent performance of our Hungarian locations. As the role of software will further increase in future cars, the added value of our sites here will also improve. Besides the best-in-class production and R&D capabilities of our two local SAM facilities, another key player for our global market success will be our Budapest-based autonomous mobility hub. In terms of production, we apply the “in the market, for the market” principle; therefore, Hungary will be one of our key European manufacturing locations for many more sensors, brake systems and automotive electronics.

BBJ: Finally, a more personal question: what is your credo, and how does it manifest in your leadership?

MM: You can summarize my credo in three aspects: Be humble, be honest, and be prepared. “Be humble” means being aware of my strengths and weaknesses, recognizing and rewarding the achievements and accomplishments of the people I work with, and being eager to improve myself. I consider authenticity an essential characteristic, and the first component to it that I live is honesty. “Be honest” represents the behavior of being transparent in every situation and the openness to share my opinion and perspective, even if it is an unpopular one. “Be prepared” allows me to shape my view and opinion upfront, being fast with decisions by making the best out of every task. It is also an appreciation towards the people with whom I work. Being prepared is an excellent basis for finding the best solution faster and getting the required things done.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of March 24, 2023.

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