Continental tires impacted from the Japanese earthquake on Driving the Nation

I’m in Algarve, Portugal with Continental tires. They have invited a group of International journalists to drive their new tires, the ECOConti 5 and the SportConti5.

This morning I talked with Christian Kotz, Senior Vice President of Research and Development for Passenger and Light truck tires.

At the Detroit auto show I spoke to Dr. Degenhart, the CEO of Continental AG. We learned than that Continental AG was a Euro 25 Billion parts, supplies and tire company headquarted in Hannover, Germany.

You wouldn’t think a company that was a supplier/parts provider that was headquarted in Germany would be affected by the Japanese challenges, but Koetz told me this morning that many tire companies will be affected because all tires are produced with synthetic rubber and Japan is essential in providing synthetic rubber to many tire companies.

Three of the biggest Japanese providers are Asahi, JSR and Zeon, all based in South of Tokyo. It’s important to note that the plants were not affected by the earthquake or the Tsunami. It is too early to tell whether there will be lost supply because of rolling blackouts/power outages or raw material availablity.

Japanese car companies have said they were doing their due diligence in making sure the supplies they used to make vehicles or components did not carry high levels of radiation. Kotz told me that Continental is doing their due diligence as well, going so far as to buy bigger lots of supplies now, and shipping them to Europe to ensure that they don’t get contaminated with radiation.
The tires

Assume that your car got twenty miles to the gallon. Did you know that twenty percent of your fuel efficiency is because of tires?

So I asked Kotz what the difference would be if he took the same car and put the new ECOConti 5 tires on them and then put the SportConti5 on them. With everything else being the same would you see a difference in fuel efficiency? Koetz said it would give you an extra 4-5% fuel efficiency. On a car that gets 20 mpg that would mean almost one extra mile per gallon.

It may not sound like a lot but with auto companies fighting for every mile it means that they don’t have to look for a place to take off another 100 pounds.

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.