UVALDE, Texas-The development and introduction of the new ContiTouring Contact CH95 marks the beginning of a new era for the Continental-brand tire line in North America. The H-rated all-season tire, which dealers will begin seeing in June in the replacement market, is the first Continental tire to be built in the U.S.
It's also the initial line of a new breed of all-season Conti-brand tires designed jointly for the North American market by engineers at Continental General Tire Inc. (CGT) in the U.S. and those at its parent firm, Continental A.G., in Germany.
``It is the culmination of what we knew we needed in terms of performance to work on our roads as well as on European roads,'' said James Novak, CGT's director of communications. In essence, he explained, ``it is a global tire.''
CGT unveiled the CH95 to tire and automotive trade journalists April 30 at its sprawling 5,000-acre test facility in Uvalde, 90 miles southwest of San Antonio.
The event included wet- and dry-handling and stopping tests, and an evaluation of the tire's performance vs. two competitive brands on the company's 800-foot by 800-foot wet handling pad.
At a briefing, CGT's Helmut Rickling, senior development engineer, passenger tire engineering, said the CH95 is aimed at owners of touring sedans for the North America market looking for ride comfort with a sporty touch.
The tire is standard equipment on 1996 Mercedes Benz E-Class and C-Class automobiles as well as BMW 3-series and 7-series and Audi A4 and A6 vehicles imported to North America. It's been available to North American dealers for servicing these vehicles since last September.
CGT and Conti engineers set a number of design objectives for the tire, Mr. Rickling said.
They wanted a tire that ran quieter when new as well as worn, gave better mileage, provided a high level of ride comfort, wore evenly and offered improved rolling resistance, without sacrificing traction on wet- or snow-covered roads.
The company's test results show the tire has met those expectations.
The tire features a non-directional tread pattern with a flat contour and sporty sidewall styling. Incorporated in the tread are decoupling grooves for ride comfort and wear, venting grooves to prevent hissing and a semi-rib design to promote traction and improve wear.
The tread has computer-optimized sipes for wet and snow traction and utilizes shoulder tie bars to reduce heel and toe wear and lower worn tire noise.
New compounding technology in the tread area, known as EcoPlus, provides lower rolling resistance for improved gas mileage, the company said.
The CH95 is the first Continental-designed all-season radial ever sourced as OE on a European import vehicle. Testing took place simultaneously in the U.S. and Europe; the tire will be sold in both markets.
CGT is producing the tire at its plants in Mount Vernon, Ill., and Charlotte, N.C.; Conti will make it in Aachen, Germany.
The fact that the tire will be made in the U.S. should please dealers by eliminating back order problems that have plagued access and delivery of Conti products in the past, Mr. Novak said.
``We're controlling our own destiny,'' he said. ``Now if we need a size or two, we have the ability to schedule the production in a manner that will allow us to respond quickly to market needs.''
CGT has attempted, with limited success, to market the European-made Conti tire line in the U.S. since Continental's acquisition of the former General Tire in 1987.
But Mr. Novak thinks the introduction of the CH95 will be a winner in North America since, ``heretofore, we were always dependent on importation and European technology working here.''
Now the company can go to market with a European- and U.S.-designed product that's made in the U.S. and conforms to this country's needs, he said.
``The Continental brand,'' Mr. Novak added, ``is receiving its shot of energy.''
CGT will introduce the CH95 to the replacement market with a special marketing program beginning in June and running through August.
Then, in late fall, the company will unveil the CT85 all-season touring tire, the second Conti-brand line made, marketed and sold in the U.S.
Mr. Novak said CGT is looking to sell the CH95 through its existing dealer network and is seeking new dealerships to carry the line.
CGT also will continue to import European lines of Conti-brand tires, predominately those in the ultra high performance segment.
The CH95 currently is available in six 14-inch, 65- and 60-series; nine 15-inch, 50-, 60- and 65-series; and five 16-inch, 50-, 55- and 60-series sizes.