Famous Motoring Journalist Criticises Continental

Well-known motoring journalist, Robert Collin, has accused Continental of doing “anything to win magazine tyre tests.” In an article published by the Swedish Aftonbladet magazine, the journalist suggests that the company has won tests by supplying “special” tyres.

The apparent motivation for the alleged underhanded behaviour is simple. Winning a tyre test can mean an increase in sales and is therefore big business. The Aftonbladet reports that this effect is particularly marked in countries like Germany and France and so the temptation for manufacturers is great. From a magazine’s point of view, the problem is that when the latest tyres are reviewed, they are generally not available in the shops and so testers have to trust manufacturers when they provide tyres for testing.

According to Mr Collin, this year a “secret test tyre department” at Continental’s Hanover headquarters tailor made different tyres for different papers. Mr Collin explains that this all became apparent when Continental’s Viking Contact 3 won the Swedish magazine’s test, which favours snow and ice performance, but also won another test by the Norwegian Auto Motor & Sport publication, which prioritises dry handling. As far as he is concerned, the two products are not the same. The tyres he received for the Swedish test supposedly use a softer tread compound to the Norwegian test winners.

In addition the journalist reports that he has since tested the consumer version of the product and found that the tyre has worse grip on ice as well as worse dry stability. “It is definitely not a test winner,” he explains. Mr Collin even goes as far as quoting sources in Hanover who admit that this kind of test manipulation is an important part of the company’s activity: “We know how the different magazines prioritise and then we tailor-make the tyres,” states an employee. “In central Europe the competition is even harder and the turnover so big that we just have to win the tests, that is why we always supply ‘special’ tyres,” says another.

In response to the accusations, the Continental executive responsible for the development of winter tyres in the Nordic markets, Roland Martensson, admits that some cheating does occur. Although he doesn’t go as far as implicating his own company: “I know that the other manufacturers cheat with test tyres,” he says, adding that he has “never heard that we have a special department dealing with such things.”

When asked to explain the alleged discrepancies in tyre design Mr Martensson explains: “If there are differences between the tyres that we send to test and the production tyres it is caused by variations or carelessness in production.” Whether or not Mr Collin’s theories about manufacturers manipulating tyre tests for their own gain are true, one thing is certain: Anyone that is up to no good is hardly likely to point the finger at themselves.

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