Continental bets its future on digitization, autonomous driving, e-drives

Continental bets its future on digitization, autonomous driving, e-drives

Business news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

At the company’s (virtual) annual general meeting, CEO Elmar Degenhart explained the course that will secure Continental’s future. According to Degenhart, Continental must first tighten its belt. Streamlining the structures is expected to generate annual savings of 500 million euros from 2023 onwards.

In contrast, Continental is relying on digitalization and software to achieve growth that is as sustainable as possible. “Software is the oxygen of industry, because it enables completely new services. Value added with software is growing at double-digit rates every year,” explained Degenhart. With high-performance computers, the digital heart of vehicles, Continental already generates sales of more than €3 billion, calculated over the life of the car model series concerned. “A single customer alone will receive over 2.5 million such computers from Continental by 2022. But that is only the beginning. We expect more than ten more projects for this innovation by 2022,” says Degenhart.

Digitalization is also a crucial aspect for new services related to mobility, he said. “We make almost all our products intelligent and digitize, for example, tires or air suspension systems. Tire data is already in great demand today. We send them to the operators of vehicle fleets via our digital services. In this way, we are expanding our business with fleets with which we generate annual sales of around one billion euros,” says Degenhart. By 2030, this turnover is to be tripled. However, Degenhart sees the greatest potential for efficiency gains through digitalisation in production. The company already uses 1,600 collaborative robots that work hand in hand with human colleagues.

A second growth area for Continental is the business with systems for assisted and automated driving. “The business with driver assistance systems is growing faster than almost any other,” says Degenhart. In addition, Continental currently sells over 350 million sensors in the field of passive safety every year. For the brake business, Degenhart gave an outlook on almost 40 million highly integrated brake systems that the company will produce by 2023.

The third growth area for Continental is technologies for locally emission-free driving. “The ‘E’ in e-mobility stands not only for ‘electric’, but above all for ’emission-free’. The supplier does not want to commit itself to one technology, but wants to keep up with both the battery and the fuel cell market. This sounds like good news for the electric drive unit recently spun off under the name of Vitesco: Degenhart expects an annual growth rate of 30% for the coming years.

A massive challenge for the supplier is the declining global vehicle production. Market observers expect a production volume for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles of a maximum of 70 million vehicles in 2020. Continental believes that the record level of over 95 million units in 2017 will not be reached again until after 2025 at the earliest.

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