AUBURN HILLS, Mich.—In an effort to promote development of its ``corner module'' offering, Continental A.G. is bringing its Detroit area automotive original equipment support staff together under one roof. More than 500 employees of Continental Teves brake systems, Continental General Tire Inc. and ContiTech Group will relocate to the 200,000-sq.-ft. site.
``Together we have manufacturing design and expertise to create a real synergy,'' said William L. Kozyra, president of Continental Teves North America, at a late August groundbreaking ceremony for Conti Teves' new headquarters and technical center in Auburn Hills.
The complex will foster closer cooperation between the various Conti units on developing a complete corner module: suspension, braking system and tire/wheel assembly.
``The other tire manufacturers are challenged to be able to compete with Continental in the sense that we're the only tire maker that can connect the customer to the road,'' Mr. Kozyra said. ``All the forces go through the tire. When you can integrate them together as a complete system, you have the ability to bring the auto makers increased performance at decreased cost.''
Continental Teves, the brake systems manufacturer that Continental A.G. acquired in late 1998 to broaden its OE component systems capabilities, will invest $40 million in the two-story building that will house its engineering, marketing and purchasing employees, as well as OEM support staff from Conti General and ContiTech.
Due to open in April, the new headquarters—situated on a 24-acre site—will benefit Continental Teves in a number of ways, Mr. Kozyra said, including:
Bringing all Continental divisions together to create cost savings, engineering and design synergies, and increased speed to market;
Offering enhanced engineering capabilities, including a noise, vibration and harshness test chamber; a vehicle evaluation test track; and durability and validation testing services; and
Integrating high-speed links that will connect it with all other Continental manufacturing and engineering sites worldwide.
``Our market share today is about one-third of all new vehicles produced (in North America), and that market share is growing,'' Mr. Kozyra said.
Continental's corner module offering—currently including rotors, calipers, knuckles and bearings and soon, the tire/wheel assembly—uniquely positions it among not only tire makers, but automotive suppliers as well, he said.
Through its electronic capabilities, Continental Teves has an edge over companies like Dana Corp. and Magna International Inc. which also are looking to provide a complete corner module, Mr. Kozyra said.
``We will be the first to integrate the tire to the electric chassis,'' using the Intelligent Tire, he said. ``We see that happening as early as the 2004 model year.''
Continental Teves N.A. will double sales to $1.4 billion in the next three years with orders in hand, Mr. Kozyra said. Sales are increasing as car makers buy more and more complete systems like the brake and brake caliper systems the company is supplying on DaimlerChrysler A.G.'s 1999 model year Grand Cherokee.
Continental Teves has landed a joint contract to provide both front and rear axles on a vehicle that will go into production in a couple of years, Mr. Kozyra said, declining to name the manufacturer.
In the meantime, Continental Teves is looking to partner with structural component and steering system manufacturers so it can join the two front corner modules into a total chassis assembly, said Chief Engineer Philip M. Headley.
Within the next month or so, the brake systems manufacturer also will announce an expansion of its North American manufacturing capacity, he said.