Continental’s OEM share in Europe over 30%
The following article was written by Daniel Rábai, CEO of Continental Hungária Kft.
2014 was a very strong year for Continental as a supplier of original equipment tires to vehicle manufacturers, with sales to both European and Asian automakers contributing to the positive outcome. In Europe, Continental obtained additional approvals from manufacturers across almost all vehicle categories, from sub-compact cars to luxury limousines. At the same time, new deals were concluded in Asia, not least with local Chinese manufacturers – a first for Continental. The tire specialist from Hanover offers a wide range of options for original equipment tires and can develop matching solutions for almost any vehicle concept.
For many years now, Continental has maintained a strong presence among European manufacturers. “We have cornered over one third of the original equipment market in Europe” says Daniel Rabai, CEO of Continental Hungaria Kft. “But that doesn’t mean we can meet every customer requirement almost without trying. On the contrary, developing the tires for the various types of vehicle is invariably a major challenge that calls for every effort from our engineers.” As well as shipping original equipment tires to automakers, Continental also supplies the aftermarket, be it through car dealerships or through the tire trade. Many of the premium manufacturers have additional letters or symbols added to the sidewall of tires that they have approved.
Continental’s products proved a success with the US automakers, too. There the company meets around one sixth of the demand for original equipment tires and, given the current buoyancy of new car sales in the US, the company see additional potential for Continental. Success stories from Asia are another positive development for the Hanover-based company. Here, Continental now supplies not only Japanese and Korean automakers, but Chinese manufacturers as well. Most of these products are manufactured at the Continental plant in Hefei, China. By producing ‘in the market for the market’, the company eliminates the expensive and complex business of transporting tires to China from Europe or the US.
“On the Hungarian replacement market, Continental saw a growth of 11,5% in 2014 compared to 2013. With this increase the total sale of car tire manufacturers in Hungary reached 2,35 million pieces, approaching the volume of the market before the financial crisis years. The middle class segment’s ‘quality’ products showed the most significant growth by 14,9%, while premium tire sales increased by 9,3% and budget segment products grow by 10,8%.” says Daniel Rábai. “Regarding the seasons, the turnover of summer tires increased by 14,6% and winter tire segment gained by 8,6%” – he adds.
Recent years have brought an ongoing rise in automakers’ expectations of their tire manufacturers. Earlier mostly safety, handling, comfort, and mileage were the only things that counted, today low rolling resistance, puncture resistance, very low noise generation, and adaptation to powertrain and engine concepts have also come to the fore. This led, for instance, to Continental developing ContiSeal technology for one major vehicle manufacturer, a system that enables the tire to automatically reseal smaller punctures in the tread. Several other manufacturers put their trust in ContiSilent technology, where a special material inside the tire ensures low noise levels in the vehicle interior.
Increasingly, the manufacturers are calling for easily identifiable marking of these special tires. Audi, for example, has its tires marked AO (Audi Original), while BMW tires feature a star, and Mercedes tires bear the letters MO. For the near future, Rábai is expecting this trend to continue: “For us as manufacturers these markings are a means of profiling our own brand in the tire sector, as well as indicating the various performance characteristics.” Rábai goes on to note, however, that “normal” car tires for the aftermarket are as suitable as ever for universal use with the highest safety standards. The car driver, he says, cannot really tell the difference between replacement tires and original equipment.
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