ERJ staff report (AN)
Geneva -- Continental AG's tyre division is gearing up for the
vehicles of the future. Nikolai Setzer, Conti's management board member
in charge of car tyres, discussed the latest trends, including how tyres
will change for electric vehicles, with Henning Krogh, a staff reporter
at Automobilwoche, the German sibling publication of Automotive News.
Many automakers are turning to electric power for future vehicles.
Does electric drive require the development of a new kind of tyre?
It has become apparent that there will be new tyre dimensions, and
there is often no standardisation for them. We will need narrower sizes
since a reduction in air resistance is especially important in electric
And the wheels will end up larger. We have to optimise the design of
the tyre sidewalls to minimise energy-consuming compression.
Technologically, this is not completely new territory. But the
appearance of the tyres will take some getting used to.
More customers are looking for green tyres that improve fuel
economy. How well are you prepared for this?
We are working on the reduction of the rolling resistance of our
products as a top priority. But in the process, you have to manage a
technological balancing act. Under no circumstances can braking behavior
suffer in tyres optimised for rolling resistance -- under wet
conditions, for example.
Vehicle safety is especially important now to consumers and the
auto industry. What lessons have you drawn from the Toyota safety
We have had our own experience in the US market and learned that we
have to develop market-specific tyre products for the different sales
regions of the world. And we keep adjusting our quality checks to the
changing conditions of the respective market environment.
Was 2009 a crisis year for your tyre business?
The crisis hit us hard in original equipment. To some extent, there
was a substantial loss of business with automakers. On the other hand,
the declines in the replacement business were considerably smaller. And
the harsh winter led to good sales of winter tyres.
The crisis also had a positive side: The prices of many raw materials
fell, saving Conti's rubber group about 250 million euros [about $341
million]. Unfortunately, prices have rebounded to their pre-crisis
levels, especially for natural rubber.
How do you assess the tyre market for 2010?
In Europe, we expect a flat market in production. But in North
America, we expect a substantial recovery of about 20 percent. But the
level was at a historic low in 2009. It can almost only go up.
We also see positive signs for original equipment in Europe, where we
expect growth of 2 percent to 4 percent. In Asia, especially China, the
growth should end up considerably stronger.
Are you planning to increase prices?
Yes. We are leaving the exact scope of the adjustments to the
responsible parties in each market. But it's projected that increases
will be in the range of 3 percent to 5 percent.
From Automotive News
(A Crain publication)