Continental to capitalise on UHP segment growth throughout Europe
Back in April, Continental formally rounded up its latest round of extensions to the manufacturer’s high performance tyre range with the top-of -range ContiSportContact 5, designed for powerful sports cars in over 20 sizes; the PremiumContact 2, for compact and medium range cars upwards; the SportContact Vmax, for the customising sector and approved for speeds of up to 360 kmh (225 mph); and the EcoContact 3 for compact cars. The SportContact 5 P, launched at the end of 2009 and designed for rear-wheel drive, powerful cars, completes this list, fitting 19”-plus sizes.
While the sector is clearly competitive, with manufacturers at all pricing levels producing self-styled “high performance” products, Conti remains confident that its stance as a technological leader keeps it in good stead for the period of continued growth it says is currently occurring in Europe. The manufacturer says that between 2009 and 2013, the UHP segment, which it defines as speed-rated W, Y and Z tyres will grow 34 per cent in the 17 inch size, yielding a total volume of around 17 million units. Over the same period the 18 inch size will grow proportionally even more, according to Conti, at 58 per cent reaching around 7 million units.
Nikolai Setzer, head of the Passenger and Light Truck Tires division, has explained why the company sees new technologies, investment in research and development, and underpinning the sales in the replacement business through success in original equipment as strategically important in the high performance sector in particular, which has this attractive growth in Europe: “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. 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.”
The UK and Germany are particularly important to the segment, constituting “almost half of sales in the sector”, according to Setzer, though the company expects proportional growth to be higher in Southern European markets.
Continental’s range is strategically layered to meet the high performance market’s needs. When compared with its popular predecessor, the SportContact 5 reflects extensive research and testing for reduced braking distance on both wet and dry roads. Furthermore, rolling resistance was cut by over 10 per cent and mileage performance enhanced by 13 per cent. These improvements were due in particular to the tyre’s compound, which is designed to achieve maximum transmission of forces when braking and low rolling resistance during normal driving. To do this, the rubber formula, referred to as BlackChilli Compound, utilises the different vibrations of the tyre.
Improvements have also been achieved in the handling of the tyre, which can now deliver an even sportier performance than its predecessor. This spring Continental’s new sports model will be available from tyre stockists as a 50 to 35 Series car tyre suitable for 17″ and 18″ rims and approved for speeds of up to 300 km/h (187 mph), whilst for SUVs the range covers 55 to 45 Series tyres suitable for 18″, 19″ and 20″ rims, also approved for speeds of up to 300 km/h.