Continental struggles for turn-around on North American tyre market
Earlier this year it was clear that the CTNA (Continental Tires North America, previously General Tire) would again have to report a three-figure million loss. In the meantime it seeped through that this number is closer to 150 million Euro than “only” around 100 million Euro. This frighteningly high loss shows: In the European tyre business the company makes huge earnings and if the American losses have finally come to an end, the tyre section is not just strongest in turn-over (despite the expected next year’s higher growth in the Automotive business unit), but also the yield-strongest. Tyres still have good expectations in the company; among other things this assumption was underpinned by the majority purchase of the tyre business of the Malaysian company Sime Darby Berhad with two tyre factories with an already existing production capacity of four million passenger car, one million small truck as well as 300,000 heavy truck tyres.
Talking to T&A at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Manfred Wennemer (55) and Martien de Louw (57), who is responsible for Continental’s passenger car tyre unit as well as CTNA, affirmed that the American tyre business will reach break-even by the end of 2005. Wennemer specifies: “With the CTNA we will reach break-even in the last quarter of 2005 even though naturally we would be pleased, if we could reach it even earlier.”
Continental was not represented at the SEMA show with its own stand, unlike Bridgestone/ Firestone, Cooper, Goodyear, Michelin and Pirelli and other competitors, probably a cost-based decision. All too tragically this might not have been, because more important than meetings in the company’s booths at the show are meetings accompanying the SEMA show in the surrounding luxury hotels of the craziest city of the world. Martien de Louw and his executive team had invited the customers to an evening in the Mandalay Bay hotel, where hundreds of Continental’s “Best Friends” arrived. De Louw used this opportunity to present his complete executive team. Manfred Wennemer, who travelled to Las Vegas, too, was accessible “on the floor” for everyone, without pushing his colleague de Louw into the background. Optimism was noticeable in Las Vegas; but in order to see that the distance remaining to be covered remains rough and stony, requires no clairvoyance.