HANOVER, Germany-Continental A.G., looking to intensify its research and development activities, will consolidate and expand its European tire R&D staff at a $58 million technology center to be built at its Stoecken factory in suburban Hanover. The company expects the move not only will benefit its European operations but its General Tire subsidiary as well, by streamlining the channels of communication for the North American subsidiary.
``We have a genuine exchange of technology with General Tire,'' Conti Chairman Hubertus von Grunberg said. ``We have to learn from each other if we are to make progress.''
When completed by the end of 1995, the 123,740-sq.-ft. facility will house 1,000 engineers and technicians, double the number currently employed at Stoecken.
A large portion of the investment for the project will come from funds previously set aside for a new headquarters. Continental abandoned plans for a new headquarters building in mid-January stating at the time it would redirect the estimated $58 million into research, development and related activities.
Additionally, the state of Lower Saxony will make available $11.5 million in funds to be used in the development of basic and materials processing innovations.
The technology center, which will be renovated and integrated architecturally into a new six-story wing, will incorporate nearly 70,000 square feet of space in a three-story structure currently occupied by R&D staff.
Approximately 430 R&D personnel at Continental's Uniroyal-Englebert Reifen GmbH. and Semperit Reifen GmbH. subsidiaries in Aachen, Germany, and Traiskirchen, Austria, respectively, will be asked to move to the Hanover site during the next two years.
Some testing equipment and staff will remain at Aachen and Traiskirchen, in addition to the test track facility in Lacroix, France, the company said.
Conti also has acquired 205 acres of land adjacent to its Contidrom test track northeast of Hanover and plans eventually to expand the facility's capabilities.
The Hanover-based tire maker currently spends about 4 percent of its annual sales on research and development, which amounted to nearly $250 million in fiscal 1992.
Mr. von Grunberg said he hopes to be able to hold the line at this level with these new measures.
``Our job is to work more efficiently...to produce more results from the same base,'' he said in response to a question about automotive companies turning more R&D/testing over to supplier companies in order to reduce their costs.
The consolidation comes about three years after Conti invested in strengthening its regional R&D centers, with ``major brand'' (Continental, Uniroyal and Semperit) car and light truck tire development at Aachen, and ``regional'' brand (Gislaved, Viking, Mabor, Sava etc.) and winter tire development at Traiskirchen.