Future Forward: The History of Continental
What do tires and a rampant horse have to do with each other? Continental Tire, that’s what. In 1882, 11 years after Continental was founded, the tire company adopted the “rampant horse” as its logo. And it’s an appropriate logo for a company that’s devoted to helping your car get the most powerful, exciting performance it can.
When the Rubber Met the Road
Continental Tire was founded in 1871 in Hanover, Germany — only it wasn’t known as Continental Tire, partially because of the language and partially because of the company’s structure. The original name was Continental-Caoutchouc-und Gutta-Percha Compagnie, and it was a joint-stock company that created a wide variety of rubber products from rubber fabrics to tires for carriages and bicycles.
Continental was actually the first German company to produce pneumatic tires for bicycles, which gave it a jump start that has led it to be in the top five tire manufacturers in the world today. Just 6 years after starting bicycle tire production, Continental added automobile tires to the long list of its products.
Racing into the 20th Century
A big step forward for Continental’s business came in the world of motorsports. And with good company. In 1901, the first model produced under the name Mercedes won the Nice-Salon-Nice car race. It rolled across the finish line on Continental tires.
Continental then advanced tire technology around the world in 1904 by introducing the first automobile tire ever to feature a patterned tread. And the technological advances didn’t stop there. The next year, Continental introduced riveted anti-skid tires, which were a precursor to today’s steel-studded winter tires. The company is also responsible for the invention of the detachable rim for sedans, which made it significantly easier to change tires.
Throughout these years, Continental still had its hand in several other industries, including the aeronautics industry. The company created liners that sealed German airships, and the first plane to fly across the English Channel used Continental’s materials to protect its fuselage and wings.
Conti & the Modern Tire Industry
Major racing victories on Continental tires brought further fame to the company — as did more technological advances. In 1921, Conti’s 50th year in business, it became the first German company to put cord tires on the market. The tires used a series of pliable fabric cords to add strength and flexibility. Another big improvement was made to Continental’s tires in 1926. Carbon black was added to the tires, which simultaneously made them more resistant to wear and gave them their black color.
During the 1930s, Continental turned its eye to the comfort of its tires. An innovative new way to bond rubber and metal helped reduce vibrations and noise produced by the tires. The ‘30s also saw a long string of racing victories on Conti tires. That streak included four consecutive German Grand Prix wins, four in the North African Tripoli race, and three in Italy. Several speed records were also broken on Conti tires in these years.
World War II obviously had a significant impact on the German company. Bombing did major damage to the manufacturing plant in Hanover. However, Continental recovered quickly after the war. The British government granted permission for Continental to resume production in June 1945. This was not the case with all German companies based on their involvement in the war effort. In 4 short years, Continental’s production reached pre-war levels.
In 1952, Continental mud and snow (M+S) tires hit the market for passenger vehicles. Porsche and Daimler-Benz vehicles captured more motorsports victories on Conti tires, helping to restore Continental’s reputation after the War. The next big step forward in the tire industry reached Continental in early 1955 when the company introduced its version of tubeless tires.
The 1960s & 1970s
In 1960, Conti started producing radial tires. After this move, the company raced to the leading ranks of tire manufacturing. Continental’s success led to the opening of two more manufacturing plants for its other divisions. The factories produced automotive parts and industrial products.
For Continental’s tire business, 1967 was an important year. The Contidrom was opened as a testing ground for the company’s tires. The Contidrom would eventually be expanded with testing tracks for specific purposes. Traction, handling, and noise are just a few of the characteristics tested at the facility today.
Continental’s other automotive and industrial product divisions experienced a lot of growth during the 1970s. In addition, Conti grew through several mergers during the decade. One of those mergers occurred in 1979 when the company took over Uniroyal’s European operations.
The 1980s & Beyond
Since the 1980s, Continental has continued to grow and extend its reach around the world. The growth has been a result of its tire sales and several purchases of competing companies both in and out of the tire industry. Conti now competes in markets in North America, South America, Asia, and Australia.
Conti has introduced several new technologies and tires during this period, including studless snow tires and the first ever tires approved for speeds up to 224 mph. The company has been involved in the development and marketing of hybrid vehicle technology in Europe. In 2010, the ContiSportContact™ 5 P was launched, bringing a new level of high performance to passenger vehicles.
In 2013, Continental began rebranding itself under a new central idea, “The Future in Motion.” Under this guiding concept, Conti has put safety, the environment, information, and affordable cars at the forefront of its business practices. Visit SimpleTire.com today to discover if any of Continental’s exceptional tires are right for you and your vehicle.