Asia Launch of Continental 4x4 Tyres
After a short four years setting up its base in Malaysia, its first Asian base, Continental Sime Tyres (CST) strode out confidently with debut of its new generation of tyres for sport utility vehicles (SUV) and off-road light trucks.
Part of the Continental Group, one of the top automotive suppliers worldwide, CST's regional launch in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah drew the participation of 250 dealers and media representatives from Malaysia, Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
The launch covered the entire Continental 4x4 range, with over 40 sizes in six different patterns, includingawesome Ultra High Performance 20-inch 40 series tyres used for high performance SUVs like Porsche Cayenne and the Range Rover Sports.
However, to be realistic, the launch focused on the bread and butter tyres - the ContiCrossContact AT for all-terrain light trucks like the Toyota Hilux and Land Rover Defender and the ContiCrossContact LX for the likes of the light use Honda CRV and other models.
The tyres, engineered in Germany are produced in Malaysia, Europe, South Africa as well as North and South America.
Going forward with its Asian plans, Continental will start its 750 million China plant by a third plant in India, according to Benoit Henry, CST's new chief executive officer.
"This is the first time that Continental tyres are made in Asia. It represents a combination of German technology and the zest of Asian manufacturing. Continental is not just about price. we see ourselves as providing mobility with safety and comfort. We see ourselves as engineers, chemists, researchers and developers," he said.
"We see what is available in the market and then we make it better."
Piqued by a question on mileage, he said: "Mileage is not the only parameter. We can make a tyre last 100,000 km but that's not just want. There are 50 or more performance criteria and it's a matter of balancing the competing requirements (until we develop the best available products for the users)."
One tip that the media got from Henry was that if you keep driving at a constant speed for long distances, the tyre tread will develop uneven wear called step-in, step-out. It's something to do with harmonics.
Tyres should still be rotated every 10,000 km, he advised.
Asked about space saving tyres, he said that as a manufacturer he preffred to sell five full-size tyres versus four and a half tyres. Personnally, he also didn't like the ride qualities of run-flat tyres but after two recent events, he had had a change of heart.
"I was in a BMW X5 which has low tyre pressure warning and it was raining. Then the tyre warning light came on. I just said uh-oh, but because ot was a run-flat, I could keep on driving and didn't have to worry about getting wet or anything," he said.
"Then, driving to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for this event, the tyre warning light came on again. This time, I just kept on going because the car had run-flats. Now, I think I can say that the convenience of run-flats outweighs the superior ride of conventional tyres."
The ContiCrossContact launch comprised a short drive on tarmac to test the NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) for the LX tyres.
Our initial impression on the short drive was that the tyres were pleasantly quite and the ride, comfartable.
For the AllTerrain (AT) tyres, the journalist were taken to a test drive site of Bandar Sierra, Telipok, for a driving experience. The circuit simulated most of the conditions for light off-roading.
It had been raining for the past few days and we could see the event organiser, Gideon Abel Mosito, looking worried at the dark clouds.
It didn't really rain though and yet in that little bit of mud that remained, we felt that the AT tyres had a lot of interesting properties like good mud traction and we wondered about the noise properties on long tarmac and about the rate of wear. We'll give you a more detailed test drive report later.
Anyway, the hands-on test-driving on different terrain conditions was a convincing event for all involved.
The tyres are currently available at all Continental network dealers with prices ranging from RM200 for the smallest LX to RM2,000 a piece for the UHP.
By Yamin Vong
New Sunday Times
27th April 2008