Originally founded in 1871, Continental celebrates its 140th anniversary this October. The Hanover-based automotive supplier grew into a leading global supplier from its roots as a producer of tires and rubber products.
Today, the company employs approximately 160,000 people at more than 190 locations worldwide, but it came from humble beginnings.
Nine Hanover-based bankers and industrialists founded Continental-Caoutchouc & Gutta-Percha Compagnie as a joint stock company in 1871.
An initial workforce of around 200 employees manufactured soft rubber products and rubberized fabrics, as well as solid tires for carriages and bicycles.
In 1904, it became the first company in the world to develop car tires with tread patterns. It was also first with removable rims for touring cars in 1908, and the first German company to make tubeless tires in 1943.
Sales in the 1880s amounted to roughly 3.3 million marks, corresponding to a present-day purchasing power of around $30.4 million. By comparison, the Continental Corporation reported worldwide sales of $36.8 billion in 2010.
The company began to develop its international orientation in the early 1980s, acquiring the European tire operations of the American Uniroyal Inc, taking over the North American manufacturer General Tire, and purchasing majority holdings in the Portuguese company Mabor and the Czech tire manufacturer Barum.
In 1998, the company began production of electronic stability control (ESC), an active safety system. It was already developing hybrid drive technology as far back as 1997, and in 2009, Continental was the first manufacturer to launch series production of lithium-ion batteries for hybrid drive vehicles.
Although the company is largely known for its tires, it is also a manufacturer of brake systems, powertrain and chassis components and systems, vehicle instrumentation, infotainment solutions and vehicle electronics.