Leading tyre manufacturer boosts development resources for the Chinese market and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole
Investment of over €4 million creates capacity for some 6,000 tyre tests per year Continental aiming to further expand its range of summer and winter tyres for APAC region
At the end of March, Continental opened a new Research and Development Center for tyres on the site of its tyre plant in Hefei, China. The initial construction phase, on an area of around 6,000 m², has created capacity to machine-test some 6,000 tyres a year and represents an investment volume of over €4 million. Plans for a second phase are already being drawn up to generate capacity for an additional 1,000 tyres to be tested. “This new facility represents another step in the systematic implementation of our ‘Vision 2025’, a program for growth that targets a better global balance of our research and development, production and sales activities. At the new Research and Development Center in Hefei, summer and winter tyres for the APAC region will be developed and tested, with the aim of reinforcing our market position in this important growth region,” explained the Executive Board Member responsible for the Tyre Division, Nikolai Setzer. “The guiding principle behind our growth in the booming Chinese automotive market remains our motto ‘in the market, for the market’,” Setzer added.
As befits one of the world's leading tyre manufacturers, Continental has equipped the new Research and Development Center with state-of-the-art test equipment. This includes a drum test bench that was custom-built for year-round testing of winter tyres for the high-growth Chinese market. As a result of this investment, in the future Continental will be able to develop new generations of summer and winter tyres for the Chinese market much faster and more efficiently. “We want to be able to offer our customers in the Chinese market fuel-efficient products with a long service life,” said Catherine Herchenroder, Director Research and Development Replacement Passenger Car and Van Tyres APAC. “Given the boundary conditions of a robust market, our development program will also feature smart robustness solutions.”
With the new Research and Development Center, Continental has further expanded its development capacities in the region. The tyre manufacturer is aiming to respond even faster to existing and new consumer needs, as well as in its business with OEM partners in China and Asia. “Our Research and Development Center in Hefei will help us forge even closer links with our customers in both the replacement and original equipment sectors, opening the door to long-term relationships with new customers in the region,” said Philipp von Hirschheydt, Executive Vice President Passenger Car Replacement Tyres APAC. “We will also be working closely with other labs in the region and are aiming to further expand our facilities in the next few years.”
Continental’s main tyre research and development facility with more than 1,200 engineers, chemists and many other tyre experts is located in Hanover-Stöcken in Germany. On the way to series production, every new tyre model at Continental undergoes a whole array of rigorous tests at indoor test facilities and on outdoor test tracks. In the EMEA region, the main proving grounds are the Contidrom near Hanover (Germany), the Winter Test Center at Arvidsjaur (Sweden) and the Test Center in Puchov (Slovakia). In the Americas, Continental has access to the world’s largest tyre proving grounds at Uvalde in Texas (USA) and the APAC region now has the new indoor Research and Development Center in Hefei. Also in China, at Yancheng in Jiangsu Province, in mid-April the groundbreaking ceremony took place for construction of a new Test Center for the Automotive Division, with operations due to start in approximately one year’s time. The 2,500 m² site will provide office facilities and test workshops as well as access to test tracks on which the latest technologies and applications can be tested, including not only brake systems but also high-speed tyres. One facility that is unique world-wide in terms of tyre test procedures is the fully automated all-weather Automated Indoor Braking Analyzer (AIBA) at the Contidrom. Here, passenger car, van and 4x4 tyres can be tested on wet and dry road surfaces at speeds of up to 120 km/h without the need for a test driver. Thanks to the fully reproducible, maximum precision tests at the AIBA, today Continental can tell much more accurately and much faster if a new tread pattern really delivers the wet and dry braking performance that is laid down in the respective specifications.