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Continental celebrates 150-year anniversary
By Rock to Road
By Rock to Road
Continental is celebrating its 150th year in business. The company was founded in Germany in 1871 and went from a local manufacturer of tires and soft rubber products to an international tech company.
Continental will celebrate its history throughout 2021 with stories on how it became a driving force of technological progress. Before cars were even invented, the company began by manufacturing horse “hoof buffers” along with solid tires for carriages and bicycles. In 1904, the company says it was the first company in the world to develop automobile tires with a patterned tread, and four years later invented the detachable rim.
The tire manufacture produced its first commercial truck tires during its 50th anniversary in 1921 and says it became the first German company to produce tires reinforced with pliable cords rather than linen fabric. Six years later, it launched the very first pneumatic tractor tire in Europe.
The company developed air springs for trucks and buses in 1955 and started manufacturing tubeless car tires, which it had patented after World War II. By the 1960s, widespread production of radial tires had begun, and the company employed 26,800 people.
By 1988, the company had almost doubled in size, employing 45,900 people around the world. It had acquired Uniroyal and Semperit in Europe, and General Tire in the U.S. Within the next 10 years, the company reinforced its position as a global tire manufacturer by adding sites in Central and South America, Africa, and Eastern Europe.
After a 10-year hiatus, Continental re-entered the OTR construction and mining tires segment in 2015 and shortly thereafter restarted production of radial agricultural tires.
Continental has been active in sustainability initiatives throughout its history. Continental launched an environmentally friendly passenger tire, the ContiEcoContact, in 1991. Today, the ContiEcoContact is now in its fifth generation.
Continental also released a prototype commercial truck tire made of alternative natural rubber in 2016, using its Taraxagum rubber from dandelions. Two years later, the Urban Taraxagum bicycle tire became the first serial tire to be manufactured using natural rubber from the dandelion plant. The bicycle tires were showcased at the 2020 Tour de France and are available for consumers to purchase.
The company also contributes to the sustainability of the manufacturing industry. In March 2019, the company announced an open-source, eco-friendly dip technology called Cokoon. This new technology bonds textiles and rubber without the use of resorcinol and formaldehyde in the textile dip. Textiles are widely used as reinforcing materials in tire manufacturing, as well as in the production of mechanical rubber goods such as hoses and conveyor belts. The series production of the first of 250,000 passenger car tires featuring their new sustainable adhesive technology began in 2019.
The company’s Vision 2030 integrates sustainable and responsible business as a key ambition. By 2050, the company aims to reach: 100 per cent carbon neutrality along its entire value chain, including products, operations, and supply; 100 per cent emission-free mobility and industries; 100 per cent circular economy with closed resource and product cycles; and 100 per cent responsible sourcing and business partnerships.
Did you know? Until 1926, tires were white due to the use of natural rubber latex. Carbon black was added in 1926 as a reinforcing agent to give the tire more resistance to wear and aging. It also gave tires their new characteristic colour: black.