Hefei plant inaugurated – Conti underway in Chinese tyre market
A ceremony marking the official opening of Continental’s first tyre factory in China was held on May 18. Shipments from the passenger car tyre plant in Hefei, Anhui province are expected to become available in the Chinese market within the next few weeks, with versions of the ContiPremiumContact 2 and ContiComfortContact 5 tailored for the Chinese market amongst the first volume products to be manufactured in Hefei. The new plant was officially opened today by CEO Dr. Elmar Degenhart, Nikolai Setzer, Executive Board member responsible for the Passenger Car and Light Truck Tires division, plant manager Tobias Kerle and representatives of local authorities.
“Asia is one of our key growth markets,” stated Dr. Degenhart. “This investment is another major step into this direction, with which we are significantly enhancing our position in the automotive industry in China and in the Asia Pacific region.” Continental’s investment in the Hefei facility is expected to total more than 185 million euros and in the first stage the plant will have an annual capacity of four million tyres, which are destined for the Chinese and other Asian markets. Continental reports further investments to expand existing capacity are “planned in the near future”; targeted total production volume for the plant is 16 million tyres. Ongoing growth at Hefei will also see another 200 employees joining the existing workforce of 400 during the course of 2011.
“Continental’s tyres business has been globally growing substantially for the past years in both segments, passenger and light truck tyres as well as commercial vehicle tyres. The opening of our manufacturing plant in Hefei is a key milestone on our journey to enhancing strategic growth and further increasing our presence in China and overall in Asia,” commented Nikolai Setzer.
With the production release granted by the local authorities, including China Compulsory Certificate approval, Conti reports the plant is now gradually ramping up passenger tyre production to meet the Asia Pacific market needs. The German manufacturer describes the level of automation in the Hefei plant’s manufacturing process and quality inspection as “nearly unprecedented” in the Chinese tyre industry, and says it has been designed so that capacity can be “modified flexibly” to satisfy expected future growth. Continental adds that the processes and equipment used in the new site ensure zero pollutant emissions.
The Hefei plant is one of 27 production and research and development sites operated by Continental’s tyre divisions around the world. The tyre maker points out that from 2012 onwards nearly every second car worldwide will be manufactured in Asia, with China the growth leader. Thus Continental says it is “looking to have an over-proportional growth in China.” A workforce of approximately 14,000 is currently employed by Continental in china at 18 production locations and 15 sales offices.