UVALDE, Texas (May 24, 2011) — Continental Tire the Americas recently christened a renovated 15-acre vehicle dynamics area (VDA) at its Uvalde Proving Grounds, the culmination of a $3.5 million infrastructure investment at the facility.
The proving ground, which as recently as 2001 was viewed internally as a drain on resources, now generates as much as $2 million in annual revenue for the company after Conti decided to use the facility more judiciously. With parent Continental A.G.'s ambitious expansion into vehicle dynamics systems and components, the test facility also has become a valuable destination for numerous Conti subsidiaries, Conti officials said.
Conti also has budgeted $1.6 million more to enhance the facility's testing capabilities for commercial vehicle tires and upgrade safety, Conti officials said recently.
The VDA upgrade began in September 2010 with the delivery of more than 88,000 metric tons of material, Conti said. The track surface was chosen to reflect the average asphalt surfaces motorists would encounter while also allowing a high degree of differentiation among different tires.
A new irrigation system distributes water uniformly across the width of the pad, which is built with a 1-degree pitch, depth adjustable from 0.05 to 0.11 inch, Conti said.
The new facility was inaugurated in late April by Thomas Neddenriep, head of tire evaluation for Conti's passenger/light truck tires segment, who said, “Tire testing is simply not possible without the ability to conduct the testing under realistic conditions.”
Located on 5,000 acres of Texas scrub land seven miles south of the town of Uvalde, the proving ground boasts 11 test courses, including a three-lane 8.5-mile high speed oval, various asphalt, cement, gravel, dirt and off-road rock courses as well as numerous high-performance and special test courses.
Conti is able to use the Uvalde Proving Grounds year-round, although afternoon summer temperatures can exceed 110 F, track officials said, making it necessary to schedule a lot of controlled temperature-sensitive testing to early morning or even after dark.
The Uvalde Proving Grounds was opened in 1959 by General Tire & Rubber Co. and taken over by Continental when it bought General in 1987. Conti replicated the main wet grip circuits at its Contidrom test track in Germany in 1997 at Uvalde.
Conti employs about 120 at the Uvalde facility.