Founded in 1871, Continental Tires has a nearly 150-year history of auto-part production. Unlike most other tire manufacturers, the company makes auto parts for the whole car, including brake components, car chassis, electronics, and powertrains. By diversifying from only tires, Continental as a company has reached incredible levels of success.
The company operates on six continents while remaining dedicated to its German precision engineering. Where other companies lean on racing and speed to sell tires, Continental sticks to the age-old concepts of reliability, durability, and safety. With this strategy, the firm has grown over a century-and-a-half to be the fourth biggest tire manufacturer in the world.
- What Makes Continental Tires So Popular?
- Continental Tires Design Features
- A History of Continental Tires
- Continental in the Tire Industry
- Continental Warranty Information
- Continental Tires and Auto Racing
- Continental Corporate Social Responsibility
- Continental’s Best Selling Tires
- A List of Continental Tires Models
What Makes Continental Tires So Popular?
Continental is particularly famous for its workhorse, practical approach to tire design. Although the company does have a small racing presence, their tires are more oriented towards daily drivers who are looking for something reliable and practical. At a premium price, Continental leans on quality and reputation to sell its products.
Continental is recognized for its complex, precise, and detailed approach to tire engineering. With almost 14,000 dedicated research and development employees, the company has one of the largest engineering departments in the industry. Tires are put through a rigorous design and test process, and price optimization comes after design—that is to say, when buying Continental, performance comes before budget.
Among all desirable tire characteristics, Continental engineers value three specific goals: fuel efficiency, traction, and braking performance. While the company still pays attention to handling and speed, its target market is ordinary drivers. Therefore, Continental tires are generally not flashy, hyper-premium, or extravagant, but they do exactly what you need them to do, every time.
Where budget manufacturers merely claim to have high-quality tires, Continental backs it up. Each year, over 250,000 of their products are tested to make sure they meet quality standards. Their rubber technology is backed up with over 500,000 material sample tests per year by 890 research assistants.
But that whole process is only on the research and development side. After manufacture, tires are put through the paces all over again. Test tires are driven over 125 million miles yearly for durability and high-speed product evaluations. For passenger vehicles, add another 25 million miles to that statistic. So what does all this testing mean for you? A completely bulletproof product that has a worldwide reputation for incredible quality and reliability.
One-third of all new cars made in Europe come from the factory equipped with Continental tires, and due to its numerous auto parts divisions, it is not a stretch to say that the company is the biggest automobile manufacturer in the world that doesn’t actually sell cars.
Continental’s supply chain and design process work in close collaboration with car manufacturers. Parts are optimally designed for every model they outfit. In fact, some models are so specialized that they can only be purchased for one car. If the automakers of the world trust Continental to equip their cars, you can be confident that a Continental tire will be able to serve you as well.
With over 150 years of history, you would think that Continental has had some product flops or failures. Most tire companies recall at least one tire model per year. Even manufacturers as big as Firestone have recalled over 23 million tires at a time, destroying consumer trust in the process. But Continental is different. The company has an industry-low recall rate, meaning that its tires rarely ever have problems.
Continental Tires Design Features
Although Continental tires aren’t designed for racing speed at all costs, the company has several innovations that help expand their philosophy of reliable and durable tires made for everyday consumers.
Featured on SUV and truck tires, Continental’s TractionPlus technology comes via +Silane, a patented and proprietary silica-based technology that Continental developed in its German laboratories. Rubber is enhanced with a microscopic technology made with a specific silica polymer structure that’s designed to provide traction in all conditions.
TractionPlus is only available on a handful of light truck and SUV tires, as it is a more expensive and large-vehicle specific technology. The end result is better traction in the wet as well as off-road. Look for the innovation to trickle down to passenger vehicle tires in the coming years.
To deal with annoying and uncomfortable road vibrations and noises, some Continental tires come with ContiSilent technology. ContiSilient is a proprietary noise reduction system developed in their Hanover laboratory. These tires utilize a small piece of foam that runs along the interior of the tire, absorbing sounds and vibrations.
Interior road noise and vibration in the cabin are actually created by the air within the tire versus the tire itself. By filling the space inside the tire with foam, those vibrations are absorbed and can’t be passed into the cabin. The technology works in all conditions and on all driving surfaces. There is no negative impact on performance or fuel-efficiency.
EcoPlus Technology is Continental’s response to other tire companies’ environmentally friendly options. These tires utilize a natural chemical called Tg-F Polymer that improves the lifespan of a tire, rolling resistance, and traction.
The chemicals used to make this tire more fuel-efficient are all-natural and non-harmful to the environment. EcoPlus Technology tires also contain the same benefits that customers are used to with all Continental tires—reliability, durability, and safety. The novel compound even helps tires perform in rainy and snowy conditions.
ContiAdapt is a futuristic technology that is brand new to the tire world. Adapt uses several miniature compressors to adjust the size of a tire on a variable-width rim. This innovation allows the tire’s contact patch with the road to be changed at any time. For highway driving, the variable-width rim can be adjusted for a smaller contact patch and higher speed. For inclement weather, the contact patch can be made wider and deliver more grip.
ContiSense is a concept technology currently being brought to market by Continental, and the company hopes to eventually deploy the innovation across all of their tires. The tire incorporates conductive rubber which allows sensors to be placed on the tread. These sensors detect the condition of the road and the tire itself, measuring and adjusting inflation while moving.
This technology can improve the driving experience by adjusting the tire inputs to change outcomes. For example, in wet weather, tire pressure can be lowered, increasing traction. During highway driving, the tire pressure can be raised, improving gas mileage. Data can be shared with the car’s internal computer or a smartphone. ContinSense hasn’t been publicly released yet, but look for it in Continental’s lineup in the near future.
A History of Continental Tires
Continental was founded in Hanover, Germany in 1871, manufacturing solid rubber tires for carriages and bicycles before cars were even invented. As the pneumatic tire became available for motorless vehicles, Continental was the first German manufacturer to adopt the technology. This put the company in a perfect strategic position to manufacture the same type of tires for cars when the automobile began to take off in the early 1900s.
Continental was the first tire company to debut a car tire with a textured tread—before this innovation, all tires were unpatterned and notoriously had very little grip. Continental became active in the racing scene in its early days, winning numerous competitions and making a name for itself across Europe. Around that time, Continental began to collaborate with Mercedes, and the company still works with the German giant today.
Always an innovative company focused on technology, Continental developed the first tubeless tire, which no longer relied on an inner tube to remain inflated. While Continental had the patent for several years, that technology was eventually adopted by the industry as a whole.
World War Two was difficult for Continental, but the company rebounded in the 1950s and its workforce swelled to 13,500 employees. In this time period, it expanded with new tire and car part lines, diversifying as it grew. It refound success in racing, which helped the company tap into international markets.
In 1987, the company entered the American market by acquiring a smaller company and converting it into a subsidiary. Since then, Continental has focused on a strategy of global expansion, diversifying into South American and Asian markets. The manufacturer has also grown other auto parts businesses, producing electronic systems, chassis, and drivetrain components.
Continental in the Tire Industry
Continental is a tire giant, but it also manufactures other auto parts. The industry stalwart produces an incredibly wide range of car parts for different companies and applications.
This diversification is thanks to the 2007 acquisition of an auto-parts production offshoot business. After the merger, Continental used its advanced supply chain and distribution networks to offer factory auto parts through its existing sales channels. The acquisition turned out to be incredibly successful, and what was once Continental’s secondary business is now the third-largest producer of auto parts in the world.
Along with their diversity, Continental is known for its unique design emphasis, which prioritizes fuel efficiency, braking distance, and traction. Continental tires are more practical than those of other manufacturers, and since the German company doesn’t really emphasize racing tires or flashy performance technology, you can be confident that any product you purchase will be a practical one.
Continental Warranty Information
With an industry-famous Total Confidence Plan, Continental is known for its fantastic warranties which offer the best post-purchase support of any major tiremaker. The first part of Continental’s plan comes within the first 60 days, where any tire purchase can be returned to Continental for a full refund or exchange. After that period, three warranties kick in.
The first two warranties are road hazard and service-related, which cover tires for 12 months in case of damage from road debris or from any manufacturing error that causes the tires to be unserviceable. The third warranty is mileage based. Depending on the tire, mileage guarantees vary, but Continental is particularly generous and offers coverage up to 80,000 miles on longer-lasting versions.
Although the mileage warranties are outstanding, some customers report slow service when warranty claims are being processed, so be aware of high turnaround times in Continental’s customer service department.
Finally, Continental offers roadside service support with any tire purchase in the US and Canada. Service crews offer flat changes, spare installations, or even free towing if needed for up to 150 miles. Support is available 24/7. Programs like these are why Continental has built such a strong reputation in the US domestic market.
Continental Tires and Auto Racing
Although Continental doesn’t prioritize competition at the same scale as storied racing manufacturers like Goodyear and Pirelli, Continental has sponsored numerous racing series to success in their 150-year history.
Formula One Racing
With a stunning win-to-start ratio, Continental is the seventh-winningest tire supplier in Formula One’s 70-year history. With just thirteen starts Continental won ten of its races, making them one of the most successful tire sponsors in Formula One history.
In the early Formula One days, Continental tires traded positions with Avon, Pirelli, and Firestone for the title of top tire sponsor. But by the 1970s, the company pulled out of the series to put their budget towards research and development over the vanity project of Formula One racing.
In recent history, Continental has made incredible gains in tire technology by sponsoring international on-road and off-road truck competitions. Most common in the English-speaking world, the sport is particularly popular in Australia and the United States. One of the best-known variations of this style of motorsport is the NASCAR Truck Racing Series, which takes place on asphalt road courses.
Dirt-based truck series are held on tricky circuits with dirt jumps, launches, and corners. Tires in these series need to be incredibly durable, reliable, and versatile while still delivering good handling. Continental chooses to spend development dollars on these series due to the incredible demands of the track, requiring unique approaches to tire design and research.
Continental Sports Sponsorships
Similar to other top tire manufacturers, Continental spends resources on sports sponsorships to elevate the brand’s presence. Although Continental does sponsor some smaller sporting leagues internationally, a lion’s share of their marketing dollars goes to two sports: US Major League Soccer and college basketball.
Continental has seen the success of other companies in the European market with sports sponsorships and saw a different entry opportunity with Major League Soccer. Due to Continental’s large presence in America, the company has been a key advocate for professional soccer stateside. With their college basketball sponsorships, Continental pursues exposure in smaller markets.
Respecting Human Rights
Continental is a company that has openly advocated for the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which champions corporate participation in ethical labor practices. In its international facilities, Continental strives to work on developing political freedoms for those in countries with fewer civil liberties.
The company’s written corporate social responsibility policy outlines voluntary initiatives that ensure human rights are being upheld in all Continental facilities and business units. The policy’s execution is different at regional levels, but the company particularly emphasizes protecting employees from human rights infringements like forced or child labor.
A Policy of Environmentalism
In the last decade, tire giants have come to the forefront in recognizing the past transgressions of the industry and working towards actively reducing the environmental impacts of tire production.
To address environmental issues, Continental has taken a two-pronged approach. Firstly, engineers calculated that the greatest environmental impact the company could have would be to make all tires as fuel-efficient as possible. To reach this goal, Continental developed the ContiEcoContact line, which maximizes fuel efficiency while using sustainable materials. With this line, a specifically optimized tread and rubber combination extend miles per gallon.
Secondly, Continental audited production facilities to see where they could reduce environmental impact. The company improved practices, and due to efficiency gains, 80% of manufacturing facilities were certified in accordance with the prestigious environmental ISO 14001 standards. Since 2013, the company has further cut carbon dioxide emissions, water waste, and energy usage.
African Intercultural Exchange
Alongside almost twenty other German multinational companies, Continental founded the “Africa is Coming” initiative. The program brings Continental employees from Sub-Saharan Africa to Germany for a year. During this year, employees are hosted for a yearlong rotational program at Continental headquarters.
In the rotation, participants learn German while simultaneously being educated on Continental’s business practices. Later they return to Africa as managers, helping execute Continental’s business strategy on the ground. By doing this, Continental is able to make sure that their African stores adhere to quality standards while helping build economic bridges between Africa and Europe.
Continental’s Best Selling Tires
Continental PureContact is the brand’s signature tire, providing all-season traction on all road conditions for everyday drivers. Performance is tuned for handling in wet, dry, and even lightly snowy conditions. For this series, tires are made in sizes that can fit everything from small coupes to larger crossovers. Also notable is the tire’s great fuel efficiency. For frequent drivers in typical conditions, the PureContact is an industry go-to.
- PureContact LS: With best-in-class comfort, the PureContact LS provides a plush ride along with an outstanding 90,000-mile estimated tread life.
- PureContact with EcoPlus Technology: For a slight price premium, Continental offers the already-fuel-efficient PureContact model with a slightly different styling, rubber, and tread to increase gas mileage.
The Continental CrossContact is a tire meant for SUVs and small trucks that mostly do city driving. While the all-season line does have some off-road capability, it’s mostly meant for on-road usage. SUV drivers who are mostly commuting around town will have the most success with this tire.
- CrossContact LX: The CrossContact LX is one of Continental’s best-selling SUV tire models. The CrossContact LX is incredibly versatile, as it can handle both light off-road driving as well as highway miles. Traction is excellent in all conditions and the tire holds up to its all-season label with good grip even in light snow. It also comes with 3 years of Continental’s roadside assistance.
- CrossContact UHP: The CrossContact UHP is a summer-specific model for luxury or high-performance SUVs. With a stiff “center rib” tread design that gives the tire sharp handling and a silica-based rubber that maximizes miles per gallon, this tire is most at home on the asphalt. The only con is winter weather performance—as a summer tire, you’ll have to switch them out when it gets snowy.
Three center grooves in this tire contribute to the Continental ContiSportContact’s outstanding traction and braking. With sporty properties, the handling-forward, fun-driving tire is mainly meant for performance cars and coupes. Turning is sharp and the tire handles well at speed. But make no mistakes, even though this tire is fast, it still has the same reliability and durability as other Continental tires.
- ContiSportContact 6: The latest ContiSportContact tire released, this model has direct racing lineage from Continental’s competition days. The tire incorporates a special rubber technology called Continental Black Chili that maximizes adhesion with the road. At a premium price, make sure you don’t take these tires in the snow, as they’re best on a clear road (or race track).
- ContiSportContact 5 SSR SUV: Continental carves out an interesting niche in their tire lineup with an ultra-high-performance SUV tire. Technologies from sports car lines were combined with the durability and sturdiness of Continental’s SUV models to make a tire that feels at home on the track, while still fitting Crossovers and SUVs.
The Continental ProContact line is a series of premium all-season tires that bring higher-end characteristics to passenger models. Each model is equipped with a sportier, more aggressive tread that improves handling, but tires still use traditional rubber compounds to be durable and functional in all weather conditions.
- ContiProContact ContiSeal: With ContiSeal technology, the Continental ProContact integrates a slick rubber coating on the inner tire to seal small punctures even while driving.
- ProContact GX SSR: Chosen for use by Mercedes-Benz, the GX SSR has a luxurious appearance and ride feel while still offering traction in gnarly weather. Tires are rated to high speeds and weight limits, typically oriented towards luxury coupes and premium sedans.
A List of Continental Tires Models
Max Performance Summer
ContiSportContact 3 SSR
ContiSportContact 5 ContiSeal
ContiSportContact 5 SSR
ContiSportContact 5P SSR
SportContact 6 SSR
Ultra High Performance All-Season
Grand Touring Summer
Grand Touring All-Season
ProContact GX SSR
ProContact RX SSR
ProContact TX SS
PureContact with EcoPlus Technology
Standard Touring All-Season