One-of-a-kind Karl Kurz celebrates 65th company anniversary
Used tyre, casing dealer and used tyre recycler looks back on an extraordinary career
Unique? Grand Seigneur? Warhorse? Pioneer? Master of his Trade? Globetrotter? Man of Action? Tinkerer? Entrepreneur? Decision Maker? Visionary? – Somehow, all these names fit Karl Kurz. In his 87 years, the entrepreneur has combined more characteristics in his person than any other in the recycling and retreading industry. We look back on an extraordinary career.
1955 – just 23 years old – Karl Kurz laid the foundation stone for his extraordinary career in the tyre industry in Olgaeck, in the middle of Stuttgart, Germany. Very early on, he established connections across North, South and Central America, Asia and Africa. The European Community hadn’t yet been born, but Karl Kurz was already a “born European”. Due to his enormous openness, he very quickly gained a high level of expertise in global tyre markets.
The used tyre business he initially set up in Stuttgart flourished and quickly ran out of space. In the early 1960s, he relocated the company headquarters. Growing car ownership in Germany supported his business’s growth. Karl Kurz shaped the tyre trade within his region for more than 30 years. Selling, winning new customers, driving business with incredible energy, realising new ideas and establishing contacts that lasted a lifetime – that is his passion.
At the end of the 1980s, other companies also wanted to make money with tyres. Dealers dealers sprang up like mushrooms, and trade organisations emerged. Competition became more intense.
Karl Kurz has also long been involved in the trade of casings, the raw material for retreading. Growing imports of cheaper new tyres from the 1990s meant, however, that passenger car tyre retreading diminished in importance. These casings then became end of life tyres, and Karl Kurz realised early on that used tyre disposal is a business model with a promising future. As long as cars drive on tyres, there’ll be end of life tyres to deal with.
In 1989, at the age of 57, Karl Kurz started again and completely rebuilt his business model by moving to Wendlingen, near Stuttgart. Waste tyres are now his main business model and he’s placed a particular focus upon sustainability from the very beginning. His global connections helped him with the new business model. In 1997, at the age of 68, he took over the 16,000-square-metre company premises and a number of employees of Gummi-Mayer in Landau, Rhineland Palatinate, expanding his sphere of activity with this second location. The used tyre disposal business grew successfully and the new location in Landau offered the ability to shred used tyres into palm-sized pieces.
The industry is important – looking for a successor
At the same time, Karl Kurz is involved in Germany’s Federal Association of Tire Trade and Vulcanization Handicrafts (BRV) and, together with former BRV managing director Peter Hülzer, founded the Working Group for Tire Disposal within the BRV. This working group is committed to certification for waste disposal companies and, together with others, sets the strict framework now in place in Germany. In 2003, Kurz himself received the first certification, and the entrepreneur also invested in a new, more powerful shredder system.
Another topic occupies sprightly entrepreneurs: Who will continue to run the company? At 75, Kurz frantically began looking for a successor, a feat that’s proving his most difficult mission. Karl Kurz’s granddaughter Hanna Schöberl strengthened the team in 2007, took on power of attorney two years later and became managing director in 2017. However, the difficult search for a successor hasn’t stopped him from expanding the company. In 2007, for example, the warehouse in Landau moved to a larger property.
Karl Kurz celebrated his 80th birthday in 2012. In the same year, the company enlarged its premises in Landau to 25,000 square metres, and the following year he doubled the factory premises in Wendlingen. With the very best of health and still very active in the company, in 2015 he celebrated the company’s 60th anniversary.
Due to the changed situation on the used tyre market, Karl Kurz is committed to establishing an industry initiative. Under his leadership, the most important and largest waste tyre disposal companies come together at the NUFAM in Karlsruhe. His vision of certified waste tyre disposal companies that deal with this secondary raw material in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner hasn’t yet been completely fulfilled, but with the ZARE (Certified Waste Tyre Disposer) initiative he is, along with many other disposal specialists, on the right track.
On May 5, Karl Kurz celebrated his 65th company anniversary and can look back on an extraordinary career.