Issue: Oct 2006


1906-2006: Continental AG division driving successfully into the future for a hundred years



by Nick Palmen

The slogan "100 Years. Forward Thinking", coined to mark this year's centenary, serves as a reminder of Continental Automotive Systems' origins as a supplier to the automotive industry and of the founding of the company in Frankfurt am Main in 1906 by Alfred Teves, the automotive engineering pioneer. Over the following decades, this small firm grew into a global supplier, accelerating progress in the automotive industry with its innovative products. In 1967 Alfred Teves GmbH became part of the ITT Group which was in turn acquired of the Continental AG in 1998. Together with Temic, the specialist automotive electronics firm, which was acquired in 2001, and the recently purchased automotive electronics branch of Motorola, the company now forms the Automotive Systems Division within Continental AG.

Today, as a developer and producer of a comprehensive range of safety systems, of networked automotive electronics and of resource-efficient hybrid drives, Continental Automotive Systems is one of the world's most important suppliers to the automotive industry. In 2005, the company's 24,000 staff employed at 41 sites throughout the world achieved sales of roughly euro 5.2 billion from their daily production totals of, for example, 57,000 electronic braking systems, 232,000 wheelspeed sensors, 43,000 airbag sensors and control units, 151,000 brake calipers, 53,000 brake boosters, 147,000 brake hoses, 79,000 body electronic modules and 18,000 radiator fans.

Predicting the future of the automobile

"The secret of our success is that, with our enthusiasm for the automobile throughout our history from Alfred Teves right up to the present, we have always managed to achieve technical progress and at the same time have constantly rediscovered the element of pleasure in driving. A spirit of creative discovery, sound commercial sense, all-round customer orientation, quality-consciousness and openness are all basic traits of our corporate character," according to Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann, Chairman of the Continental Automotive Systems board and member of the Continental AG Board of Management.

A few milestones in the company's history illustrate how innovation shapes our corporate thinking. In 1926 Teves brought the four-wheel hydraulic braking system to continental Europe; and in the Fifties, through the acquisition of the relevant licenses, it became one of the largest producers of vacuum brake boosters and one of the first to recognize the technological superiority of the disk brake. As a result, Teves and the ATE brand became a synonym for innovative, high-quality, yet inexpensive braking systems and components -- a profile which gained even greater definition as electronics were incorporated into vehicle design.

In 1984, for example, Teves introduced the microprocessor-controlled ABS into series production, the first supplier to put its faith in this still untried but inexpensive technology. Today it is the global standard. Subsequent pioneering work brought ESP and driver assistance systems as well as electronically-controlled air suspension chassis and hybrid drive systems. Acquired in 1967 by ITT, the company expanded both technologically and geographically in giant strides. In 1998 it was acquired by Continental AG and integrated into its Automotive Systems Division. In 2001 it was joined by Temic, which had been acquired from DaimlerChrysler, and in 2006 by Motorola's automotive electronics business.

In its 2006 centenary year, the Division is now a global supplier to the automotive industry of highly-integrated key technologies in the areas of braking and safety systems, drive systems and chassis, bodywork, driver authorization and intelligent mobility. "Comprehensive driving safety, sustainability, driving pleasure and intelligent traffic management will characterize the automobile of the future. Continental Automotive Systems has established itself in the best possible position; the future lies in the intelligent interlinking of technologically challenging safety and chassis systems and the ability of vehicles to communicate both with each other and with their surroundings. We are ready for the next leap in technology," said Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann.

The Continental group is a leading supplier of braking systems, chassis components, vehicle electronics, tires and technical elastomers to the automotive industry. In 2005, the company achieved sales of euro 13.8 billion and currently employs a workforce of roughly 85,000 throughout the world.

As a leading global technology and systems engineering partner to the automotive industry, the Automotive Systems Division of Continental AG combines comprehensive know-how and uncompromising quality in the areas of active and passive driving safety, telematics, hands-free communication systems, drive systems and comfort. In 2005, this Division generated sales of roughly euro 5.2 billion with a workforce of more than 24,000. Continental Automotive Systems develops and produces electronic and hydraulic brake, stability and suspension control systems, electronic pneumatic suspension systems, sensors, engine management and transmission control systems, hybrid drives, radiator fan modules and electronic devices for comfort and safety applications and is a leading global producer of telematics and communications solutions for the automotive sector.

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