Continental VP provides tire industry outlook at Mid-America Trucking Show

During a press conference at the 2014 Mid-America Trucking Show, Continental's Paul Williams detailed the company's predictions for the state of the tire industry over the next decade.

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A glimpse into the next decade of transportation in North America reveals that Continental Tire has anticipated market challenges with products and services available in 2014, the tire company revealed at a press conference on March 26 before the Mid-America Trucking Show.

Continental’s Executive Vice President for Truck Tires in the Americas, Paul Williams, spoke at an annual media conference and detailed several predictions about the state of the industry for the next decade, as well as new product and service announcements for 2014.
Williams began the press event, held in conjunction with Continental’s Commercial Vehicles and Aftermarket group, with a nod to Continental AG’s success in 2013. Capping off a year when sales increased 1.8% to €33.3 billion, Continental increased its global employment to 178,000 – around 8,000 more than the year before. For 2014, Continental predicts continued growth in the North American markets and expects the global market for commercial vehicles to rise by 2%.
“We now rank as the largest automotive supplier in the world and are solidly positioned as one of the top rubber manufacturers as well. In the Americas we continued to support our retreading business and now have more than 30 licensed ContiTread outlets in the region. To support this growth we doubled our customer service team and increased sales personnel by 20% in North America,” Williams said in a brief recap of 2013 successes for the Commercial Vehicle Tire group.
Looking forward, Williams said that Continental’s emphasis on research and development – having devoted a company record R&D investment last year of just under €1.9 billion – allows the company to not just respond to, but anticipate market demands. He then explained how Continental’s tire division is prepared for several transportation challenges for the next decade and beyond. These include:
Public Transit: Americans took a record 10 billion public transit trips in 2013 and public transit outpaced vehicle miles traveled. Continental predicts that urban bus and motorcoach will initially be the fastest-growing public transit areas and launched at the show two new tires for the people segment – Conti Urban HA3 for city buses and Conti Coach HA3 for long distance motorcoaches.
Cargo and Shipping: With the estimated opening of the Panama Canal expansion in 2015, Continental believes port shipments can double in the next 10 years. “Today we are helping port operators and shippers with their tire needs, by making available in North America our full new line of Continental commercial specialty tires for the port business,” Williams said.

Construction: The Obama administration has proposed a 2015 budget that includes $10 billion over four years covering highway, rail and port projects. Next year, American construction is expected to increase by 10% for airports and terminals; 6% for bridges and overpasses; and 5% for heavy and light rail. “Medium-duty trucks and Class 4 and 5 pickup trucks will take on a great deal of this work – but until recently, the tire choices in this market were limited to ‘one size fits all.’ Continental has already begun expanding our portfolio of 19.5-inch truck tires by increasing the fuel efficiency of our original equipment tires, the HSR and HDR. We remain the only tire manufacturer to meet both the EPA greenhouse gas regulations for truck tires and the load and speed ratings specified for these vehicles,” Williams said. At Mid-America, Continental is previewing its first specialized tire for this segment, the high-traction Conti TerraPlus HD3. Tires for the winter and hybrid segments are forthcoming to further specialize the 19.5-inch market, he said.
Shifting Traffic Patterns: The new generation of urban workers, Generation Y, is in an anti-commuting mindset and the nation’s largest cities are actually growing faster than the rest of America, Williams said. This gives rise to urban areas that are growing closer together – but the same trucks that deliver goods to these cities are also expected to travel long distances without changing the tires. “Continental anticipated this market segment several years ago and pioneered the multi-application tire with our Hybrid line. Today I am pleased to display the latest offerings in this application, the Hybrid HS3 steer tire that is designed for both regional and long haul performance,” Williams said.

Environment: Climate change and sustainability remain at the forefront for both Continental and the tire industry. The market demand for retreads, which use approximately one-third the raw materials of a new tire, is expected to increase by nearly 17% by 2018. Continental is also pioneering raw material research with its project to industrialize low environmental impact natural rubber from dandelions in Germany, where a new pilot facility is under construction. But environmental regulations, where Continental is a market leader, will continue to evolve. 
“We predict that as a companion to the mandate for EPA to develop new emissions standards for trucks by 2016, SmartWay rolling resistance limits for truck tires will eventually become tougher. Because the SmartWay tire standards are relative to the best selling new tires, the ante will eventually be upped as the market shifts to adopt fuel efficient tires in the top spots. Continental will continue to meet this challenge and stay a market leader in SmartWay product offerings, and I am pleased to announce that our new Conti EcoPlus HS3 steer tire is being introduced here at Mid-America. This completes our line of new third generation fuel efficient truck tires introduced for North America,” Williams said.

Technologies: Traffic congestion remains an increasing problem in America – growing 6% last year. In order to reduce this economic drain, Continental predicts that connected vehicles and automated technologies will be enabled in the next decade to allow for wireless traffic sensing, road hazards and even inspections. “Continental engineers are already testing tire sensors that can eventually contribute to vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communication and vehicle to infrastructure (V2X), by sensing the vehicle’s load. Future tire sensors will also be able to interface with the truck’s safety and data systems,” Williams said. He then announced that Continental has made a significant upgrade to its ContiPressureCheck tire pressure monitoring system with automated trailer learning capabilities – an important enhancement to the system which increases ease of use and represents a significant technological advancement.
Trucking Fleet NeedsContinental continues to evolve its offerings for trucking fleets who increasingly demand a partner, not just a supplier of tires. The Commercial Vehicle Tire group has been restructured with the addition of strategic account managers dedicated to medium to large fleets in North America. Continental will also support its fleets on the road with the addition of mechanical service in its emergency breakdown programs, TrukFix and ContiFleet – and with a new announcement of partnership with Love’s Travel Stops to carry Continental and General branded truck tires at nearly 200 Love’s Truck Tire Care centers nationwide.
Williams said 2014 will be an exciting year for Continental fleet customers, who will also see the launch of a new Conti360° Fleet Services Web portal. “On this site, our fleet customers will be able to view all of their Continental statements, invoices, credits and tire monitoring reports in a single location. We will launch this summer with these functions and then continue to expand the site and tie in additional Continental services,” Williams said.
Continental will meet increased market demands by taking advantage of the company’s record €1 billion investment in high-tech testing and production capacities for its tire business, Williams said.
“Over the next decade we will be poised to take on the challenges of the future. We invite fleets to stop by our booth at Mid-America, where we are aligned with our Commercial Vehicle and Aftermarket group and ContiTech, to see everything Continental has to offer the trucking industry,” Williams said.

Continental’s exhibits at the 2014 Mid-America Trucking Show are located in the North hall:

  • Commercial Vehicle Tires and Commercial Vehicle and Aftermarket – VDO at 18252
  • ContiTech at 18217