Continental aims to boost driving safety

Updated: 2013-06-13 07:35

By Ma Chenguang and Ge Man (China Daily)

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Continental aims to boost driving safety

Michael Egner (second left), general manager of Continental Tires Hefei Co Ltd, speaks with visitors at the company's office in Hefei. Zhou Shenghua / For China Daily

A Hefei-based branch of Continental Corp, the leading German tire manufacturer aiming to become one of China's top three tiremakers and suppliers over the next few years, has vowed to enhance driving safety for Chinese customers.

Michael Egner, general manager of Continental Tires Hefei Co Ltd, which was set up with an input of 185 million euros ($240 million) to manufacture premium tires, said that as Chinese people become more conscious of driving safety, Continental will take care of them.

He said Continental Tires Hefei plans this year to produce 20-inch tires, SSR (self supporting runflat) tires and winter tires locally to safeguard the driving of Chinese consumers as part of its aim to produce 4 million PLT (passenger light truck) tires in the first phase of the Hefei plant.

Statistics show total production in China, the world's largest tire consumer, reached more than 483 million tires in 2012, accounting for about one third of global output.

Yuan Zhou, finance manager of Continental Tires Hefei, said that last year Continental increased its investment in Hefei to 339 million euros, aiming for an annual production of 8 million PLT tires.

The plant is designed to reach a capacity of 16 million tires, in an attempt to support the company's market presence and eventually provide more jobs to locals after extension work is completed.

Continental, founded in Hanover, Germany, in 1871, is divided into two groups, automotive and rubber. It consists of five divisions, including the tire division.

"People in China, as I see it, are getting more and more conscious about safety, and driving safety has lots to do with tires," said Egner, stressing that Continental is renowned for contributing to enhanced driving safety and protection of the global climate.

Located in the Hefei State Hi-Tech Industry Development Zone, Continental Tires Hefei is the largest foreign direct investment project to date in Anhui province.

"We brought the latest technology into China. The equipment and machinery in the plant is advanced. Quality and safety is the highest priority, whether we are in Europe or in China," Egner said.

"China is the most important automobile market in the world and also the key market for Continental. Although the market share of Continental in China was not so strong last year, we foresee huge potential in the future."

Egner also said there are many young drivers in China. The first thing they care about when they buy a car might be whether they can afford it. But when they become experienced drivers, safety and quality tires may be their first concern, he said.

"When the market becomes mature, people will be more conscious about the role of tires in driving. It is a matter of time, and I am confident in our products," Egner said.

"The main business for Continental Tires used to be the replacement market. With the operation of the Hefei plant, we will explore the original equipment market."

Although Continental Tires Hefei is a foreign direct investment, the management team comprises local and international staff members, Egner said.

"We are one team. You can have the best equipment, wonderful machines and everything brand new, but if the people are not working together, you cannot be successful," he said.

At Continental Tires Hefei, quality control is very strict, with each tire undergoing machine testing and manual inspection before being put into storage, according to Egner.