Winter Tyre “Market Leader” Conti to Attempt UHP Summer Segment Expansion
Nailing Continental’s colours to the mast, the company’s head of passenger and light truck tyres has spoken of its commitment to technological investment and growing its high performance passenger car range. Nikolai Setzer said, “Technology leadership is a decisive factor for further growth”, concurrently claiming that despite the financial woes of the past 15 months, the high-performance tyres market will continue to grow. Setzer sees new technologies, investment in research and development, and underpinning the sales in the replacement business through success in original equipment as the way to go. In the high-performance tyres sector in particular, he can see attractive opportunities for growth in Europe.
“When it comes to passenger and light truck tyres, we are the market leader for original equipment and for the winter tyres sector,” said Setzer at ContiTechnikForum 2009 in Portugal. “As for product features, we place the utmost importance on short braking distances and maximum safety. These features combined with the lowest possible rolling resistance enable us to combine safety considerations with environmental aspects. These are two of the main areas on which we have been successfully focusing for years.”
According to Setzer, Continental wishes, in the future, to expand its summer tyres segment, especially with regard to high-performance tyres (UHP sector, approved above 240 km/h). “On the one hand, we are anticipating that this area will see the largest and most profitable market growth during the next few years, with annual growth of more than 6 per cent until 2012. On the other hand, our high competitiveness in this sector is demonstrated by our extremely technological orientation,” he said. “Last year, a good 15 million of these tyres – which are manufactured in sizes between 17 and 23 inches – were sold to markets in Western and Central Europe. We expect demand to rise to 20.4 million tyres by 2012. This represents a growth of more than 35 per cent compared with 2007 levels.”
The main European markets for these UHP tyres are Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. “The first two of these countries alone constitute almost half of sales in the sector,” explained Setzer. “However, seen as a percentage, we are expecting sales of high-performance tyres to increase even more in Southern Europe than in Great Britain and Germany.
“Next spring, the ContiSportContact 5 P will be launched – the new model for the really sporty passenger car. This tyre’s ‘brother’, the ContiSportContact 5, will be launched in spring 2011. For our new high-tech ContiSportContact 5 P tyre, we already have approvals from several car manufacturers such as Mercedes AMG and Audi, even though we are still several months away from the planned start of series production in spring 2010.” In the high-performance sector in particular, OE approvals require the highest possible level of technology due to the special requirements of vehicle manufacturers, according to Continental. These approvals then pave the way for later success in the replacement business. “OE trade again contributes to the generation of know-how and the subsequent transfer of this know-how to tyres for the replacement market,” Setzer outlined.
Continental demonstrates the extent to which this transfer works through its emergency running systems, for example, which have been successfully marketed both in the original equipment sector and in the replacement market. “Here we are able to offer a wide portfolio of graduated solutions for practically all vehicle categories and manufacturer concepts from self-sealing ContiSeal tyres to the ContiComfortKit,” stated Setzer. “For example, with regard to UHP tyres the ContiSportContact Vmax with a 360 km/h release for series production allows us to easily prove that close collaboration with leading vehicle manufacturers and high-end tuners contributes to technology leadership – especially in the high-performance sector. Due to the existing level of know-how in our research and development team, we have no need to become involved in racing series here.”
Setzer believes that thanks to these new developments and to further investment in research and development, Continental is on the right path to generate growth in this sector through technology leadership. “Right now, it would be quite wrong to reduce important investments and projects in research in development for the short term,” he warns. “Global competition and requirements for future solutions for personalized mobility are beginning to increase again. As the leading European manufacturer of tyres, we thus want to convert our competitive edge into additional sales in the UHP sector via continuously further developed products.”