Continental, the top-rated global tire and rubber specialist, is celebrating its 140th anniversary this month. Originally employing about 200 individuals in 1871 to manufacture soft rubber products, rubberized fabrics and solid tires for carriages and bicycles, the company now has around 160,000 employees in at least 190 locations around the world.
Nine Hanover-based industrialists and bankers established Continental-Caoutchouc & Gutta-Percha Compagnie as a joint stock company in 1871. The company continued to progress from its roots as a specialist solely for tires and rubber products into a foremost international automotive supplier.
In 1904, the company was the first in the world to create automotive tires with tread patterns. It was also the first to offer detachable rims on touring automobiles in 1908 and the first German company to produce tubeless tires in 1943. Sales in the 1880s amounted to approximately 3.3 million marks, matching a modern-day buying power of about EUR21.5 million. In comparison, the Continental Corporation reported global sales of EUR26 billion in 2010. In 2011, the company is pursuing sales of more than EUR29.5 billion.
The company began going global in the early 1980s, obtaining the European tire operations of the American company Uniroyal Inc., buying majority holdings in the Czech tire maker Barum and the Portuguese company Mabor, and overtaking the North American manufacturer General Tire. Continental continues to produce its core technologies.
In 1998, the company started standard production of electronic stability control (ESC), a trend-setting active safety system. Hybrid drive technology has already been in the Continental portfolio since 1997. In 2009, Continental was the original manufacturer from all over the world to launch series production of lithium-ion batteries to be utilized in cars with hybrid drives.