HANNOVER, Germany-Continental General Tire improved its performance in North America last year, moving slightly over the break-even mark, while increasing sales 6.1 percent to $1.41 billion, according to its German parent company, Continental A.G. CGT experienced double-digit growth in original equipment sales, with shipments up 21 and 55 percent for car and truck tires, respectively. That was largely offset, however, by a 7-percent drop in replacement passenger tire sales; aftermarket truck tire sales grew 3 percent.
With a positive contribution from CGT, net earnings for Continental A.G. more than doubled in 1995, soaring 118 percent beyond 1994 levels to $105.9 million. Sales for the year climbed 3.8 percent to $7.04 billion (amounts converted from German marks using the annual average exchange rate).
Conti credited cost-saving measures instituted over the past 18 months for the improvement, as net profitability moved to 1.5 percent of sales, double the 1994 rate but still shy of the declared goal of 2.5 percent.
Record sales of higher-margin winter tires in November and December also boosted the year's results. Sales of Conti group winter tire brands-Conti, Uniroyal, Semperit, Gislaved and Viking-increased 12 percent to nearly 7 million units.
The improved earnings came despite markedly higher costs for raw materials and currency translation losses, the latter of which held down sales growth by about half, Conti said in its prepared statement.
The company declined to make any forecast for fiscal 1996, other than to say the first two months were ``neither spectacular nor disappointing.''