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Continental is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2021

Since its foundation in Hanover, Germany on October 8, 1871, the company has been developing pioneering technologies and services for sustainable and connected mobility of people and their goods.

From a small factory in Hanover, Continental has developed into one of the global players in the automotive industry, and now operates in 58 countries and markets, and employs around 193 000 people.

“Continental is the oldest independent tyre manufacturer, and also one of the world’s largest,” said Martin Buday, managing director of Continental Tyre South Africa. “Over the past 150 years, we have set standards across the tyre industry with our pioneering spirit and innovative strength. Continental has a long and exceptionally proud heritage of delivering ground-breaking inventions that ensured that tyres became safer and more efficient, and this also defines our approach towards a more sustainable and even more exciting future.”

The Tires business area has 24 production and development locations worldwide, and is one of the leading tyre manufacturers with  more than 56 000 employees.

1921 Continental Giant Pneumatic Tyre.

South African legacy

Continental Tyre South Africa is 74 years old this year and currently employs around 1 100 people, with its head office and tyre manufacturing plant located in Gqeberha.

Originally founded as a joint venture between General Tire International in the US and the local Williams Hunt Group, the General Tire and Rubber Company South Africa was officially registered in January 1947. The local operation was acquired by Continental AG in 1998 and renamed Continental Tyre South Africa. This created the foundation to become one of SA’s leading tyre manufacturers, supplying original equipment tyres to seven of the largest vehicle manufacturers in the country.
“With a large number of these OEMs exporting vehicles around the world, Continental tyres produced in South Africa form an important part of the global automotive supply chain, and this is something that we are extremely proud of at Continental Tyre SA,” Buday said.

“Our local plant has benefited from investments and upgrades worth almost R1 billion over the past decade, and in 2019 we became the first tyre manufacturer in the country to produce a 19-inch tyre on South African soil, in the form of the General Grabber AT3. This was a significant achievement for the domestic operations and opened the door for further expansion in the crucial OE and replacement tyre business.”

1991 – ContiEcoContact

One of the recent, major achievements for the company was the selection of the locally produced General Grabber AT3 all-terrain tyre as OE fitment on the Ford Ranger Raptor, which is assembled at Ford’s Silverton Assembly Plant – both for the domestic market and for export around the world. The Grabber AT3 is also OE fitment on the Isuzu D-Max, and is one of the leading contenders in the replacement market too. Numerous independent tests have proven the Grabber AT3 to be the benchmark in the all-terrain tyre segment, with its 50/50 on-road/off-road design delivering well-balanced performance for all surfaces.

The company’s ongoing investment to reduce the environmental impact of its local operations continues as it strives to lower CO2 emissions, cut back on energy and water consumption and reduce the amount of waste generated. Earlier this year, Continental Tyre SA received the Industrial Corporate Project of the Year award for 2020 from the South African Energy Efficiency Confederation for the heat recovery project implemented at the plant. In 2019 alone this initiative saved 4.5 million kWh of energy and over R1 million. It continues to benefit operating efficiencies and reduce the plant’s environmental impact.

In its early days, Continental’s product range included a variety of rubber products such as toy balls, rubber mats, roller coverings, rubberised fabrics for balloons and solid tyres for carriages and bicycles. Continental was the first German company to produce pneumatic bicycle tyres in the late 1800s, and in 1898, the production of pneumatic tyres for cars began. The first pneumatics were treadless and had comparatively limited handling characteristics, at least by today’s standards – and so Continental presented the world’s first car tyre with a tread in 1904.

Continental Urban Taraxagum.

State-of-the-art tyre testing

Before a new tyre from Continental is launched on the market, it has to successfully pass a wide range of tests and as many as 25-million test kilometres before the start of production.

An example of this is the ContiSportContact Vmax, which was launched in 2003 as the only production tyre on the market with a maximum speed rating of 360km/h.

Furthermore, as of 2022 Continental will use reprocessed polyester obtained from recycled plastic bottles in its tyre production.

Source: QuickPic

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