Continental: From pioneers to the 4th biggest tire manufacturer in the world
Continental was founded in Hannover, Germany in 1871 as a rubber manufacturer -Continental-Caoutchouc und Gutta-Percha Compagnie. Today, Continental is the world’s fourth-largest tire manufacturer. Over the years, Continental has had some impressive successes, including ups and downs. Let’s learn a bit more about the Continental Motorcycle Tire history. The Hanover plant began producing bicycles and solid tires only, since the first fuel-powered motorcycle came up in 1894. Almost a quarter of a century after the company’s foundation, Continental was the main force dedicated to tire development. Since then its focus was crucially involved in the technological tire progress being made.
As far back as 1892, we were the first German company to manufacture a pneumatic tire. In 1904, we marketed the first tires with a patterned tread – a sensation in those times. We have also been involved in various racing events and broken many records. Daring bikers like Wilhelm Herz, cracked the 300 km/h mark in 1951 with an NSU Delphin. More recently, Carl Reese broke the record for most miles in 24 hours with an individual bike on a track. These achievements have immortalized the Continental brand name ever since.
The motorization of society in the early 20th century prompted the development of the German tire culture in its purest form. This German tire culture consisted of relentless research, tests and invention of motorcycle tires. To produce the best product, Continental covered hundreds of thousands of kilometers and applied for numerous patents until perfection was achieved.
Rise in the USA
Imports of motorcycle tires to the US started in the mid 1970’s with distribution out of the two Continental warehouses in New Jersey and California. During the 1980’s, Continental became the #1 replacement motorcycle tire in the US with over 300,000 tires sold in the Conti Twin (Classic) line. Other manufacturers started to develop their own ribbed tires, followed by sport tires and radial technologies. Since we were not in these markets, our sales started to drop and our market leader title was lost.
By the early 1990’s sales dropped so low worldwide, that Hannover decided to stop all motorcycle R&D. By having a very limited product line to sell, sales continued to fall and Continental motorcycle tires became virtually unknown. Only the older Harley-Davidson riders used to remember our Conti Twins after the plummet. In the year 2000, the motorcycle department was revamped. It was put on a mission to reach the same success as years before. R&D was reinstated and new model lines have since been developed.
“It has been an uphill battle, but sales have continued to climb”, said Janet DeCandia, Continental’s Motorcycle Tire Department coordinator for 33 years.
Since the revitalization of the motorcycle department, we have been constantly evolving and finding better technologies to implement in our tires. Our efforts have started to pay off and be known around the world. Our tires have been recognized by Motorrad, FastBike and PS Magazines. Thanks to our quality tests and procedures, we have developed key feature tire technologies. These technologies make our tires stand out from the competition and deliver the best to our customers.
Over the years we have gotten to know our strengths and weaknesses, and learned to provide the customer with the best tire on the market. Today, we are carrying forward these traditions in our home plant for motorcycle tires in the North Hessian town of Korbach – with the same passion that marked previous generations. Ever since, Continental has been on a relentless pursuit of repeating great success and market leadership.