Safety at the limit: Tires for performance-tuned cars
Continental, the German premium automotive supplier and manufacturer, has established itself as a leading developer of bespoke tires for performance-modified vehicles from renowned manufacturers and brand tuners in the Middle East and around the world. In a region where individual modification of cars is steadily growing, ultra-ultra high performance (U-UHP) Continental tires can be relied upon to maintain optimum performance levels at speeds of 360 km/h and above.
After its €45 million investment in the high-performance technology sector, Continental is set to produce around 350,000 U-UHP tires annually for the tuning market.
Among the elite specialists who fit their modified cars with Continental tires are Abt, AC Schnitzer, Arden, Brabus, Heico, Lorinser, edo competition and TechArt, to name just a few.
Henry Siemons, head of the tuning department at Continental, reports on how new technologies are driven forward in the high-speed sector, how innovations are put to work and how development work for prominent specialist tuners benefits Continental’s own brand.
Henry Siemons, why is there such a strong focus on the topic of U-UHP at Continental?
Henry Siemons: In regions where the automobile market is still growing, the proportion of modern vehicles that demand more from their tires is also larger. Then there’s the growth that we ourselves are fostering. We don’t just observe and follow trends, we actively drive them forward as well. In this respect, we work closely with the tuning firms who we regard as specialist manufacturers. The extremely high standards in this market demand technological developments that will in future find their way into the volume market as well. This way, we have already harnessed these technologies before the volume markets start to demand them.
Which tuners and OEMs choose to rely on Continental’s expertise?
Henry Siemons: I think we’re unique here in that almost all the renowned tuning firms are regular customers. They’re almost all single-marque tuners who have been specializing for years in cars from a single manufacturer and have built a reputation to match, as we have too. We work with these high-end tuning firms on an equal footing.
In general, what kind of volumes of U-UHP tires do you manufacture?
Henry Siemons: In our highly specialized area we’re talking about very different numbers from the OEM sector, for example. We engage in image-building projects through which we aim to show that we’re leading the field in the U-UHP segment, even if only 100 or so of a particular tire are ever built. An initial production volume of 500 units doesn’t sound too large, but you have to consider the price level we’re talking about here and the fact that these tires will only be destined for a single model in a single market. And then there’s the prospect that this product will find its way into standard production.
So, developing U-UHP tires can also be a means of opening up and cornering new markets?
Henry Siemons: We always aim to be among the leaders in the tuning sector, to tell the world: we’re here; this patch is already reserved. And when a new model, from Brabus, for example, makes its public debut at the Geneva Motor Show, we aim to be present on the car with a technology-leading tire. This is a real image-building factor and gives our reputation a further boost.
But surely Continental’s reputation for U-UHP tires doesn’t depend entirely on image transfer from performance-tuned cars?
Henry Siemons: Along with the major auto shows, tuning fairs are also significant events for us. Our discussions with visitors to our booth confirm time and again that tires figure high on the agenda for many sporty drivers. They’re not just wear parts but hi-tech products without which safe dynamic driving would be impossible.
What are the key characteristics that a U-UHP tire must deliver for such high-powered cars?
Henry Siemons: Requirements in the tuning sector go well beyond what we need to deliver for the replacement business. Here, it’s all about attaining the perfect balance between very high speeds, dynamic handling and the weight of the vehicle, while always making absolutely sure that the car retains its unique character.
Which Continental plants are in a position to manufacture U-UHP tires?
Henry Siemons: With the new HPTC, our High Performance Technology Center in Korbach, Germany, we’ve now got a plant that can produce short runs of tires – a kind of specialist tire production shop for very special applications that we can experiment with in the high-tech segment. Like when we’re dealing with new material compounds or constructions. We then try to transfer the knowledge that we acquire here to other production sites, as well.