Continental celebrates its 150th Anniversary

Continental Tyre South Africa

CONTINENTAL is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2021. Since its foundation in Hanover, Germany on 8 October 1871, the company has been developing pioneering technologies and services for sustainable and connected mobility of people and their goods. Continental now operates in 58 countries and markets, and employs around 193 000 people. The tyre business division has 24 production and development locations worldwide, and has more than 56 000 employees.

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 with Continental presenting the world’s first car tyre with a tread in 1904.

Some of the other significant milestones in Continental’s tyre development include the first tyre with a detachable rim, the patent for the world’s first tubeless tyre and, with the “all-terrain” model, the first dedicated winter tyre. Likewise, the first pneumatic tractor tyre came from Continental. Later came the first rolling resistance-optimized tyre, and the first production tyre to feature a tread made from dandelion rubber.

State-of-the-art tyre testing

For the testing of tyres in all conceivable conditions, Continental maintains state-of-the-art tyre testing facilities worldwide. The Contidrom, near Hanover, was the prototype when it opened in 1967, and has become the reference for all Continental tyre test centres around the world.

Sustainability and Vision 2030

The Tires business area is at the forefront in the efficient and sustainable use of water and energy, consuming 55 percent less water and 17 percent less energy than the industry average. Furthermore, as of 2022 Continental will use reprocessed polyester obtained from recycled plastic bottles in its tyre production. The new sustainable polyester yarn will be obtained from PET bottles and will be used in the construction of the tyre carcass. In time, this will completely replace conventional polyester. Today, a conventional passenger car tyre consists of around 400 grams of polyester yarn. This means that more than 60 recycled PET bottles can be used for a complete set of vehicle tyres in the future.

South African legacy

Continental Tyre South Africa is 74 years old in 2021 and currently employs around 1 100 people, with its head office and tyre manufacturing plant located in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth).

It supplies 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 of which we are extremely proud,” says Martin Buday, Managing Director of Continental Tyre South Africa. “Our local plant has benefitted from investments and upgrades worth almost R1-billion over the past decade.”

The company’s ongoing investment to reduce the environmental impact of its local operations resulted in the company being awarded 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.