Port Elizabeth - The relaunch of General Tyre in South Africa this year marks a new era for the brand locally, yet is entrenched in a long and proud legacy of innovation and success.
The General Tire and Rubber Company was originally founded in September 1915 in Akron, Ohio by William F O’Neil and Winfred E Fouse. It emerged as a development of their original Western Tire & Rubber Company that focused on tyre repair products.
Its first product was the oversized General Jumbo, an innovative pneumatic truck tyre aimed at the premium replacement market. Over the ensuing years, General Tire was responsible for the development and widespread introduction of several important new technologies. The company solved a 40-year problem with the discovery of the carbon-black formulation in 1943, which set the tone for the tyre industry for decades to come.
Plant in Port Elizabeth
The invention of synthetic oil-extended rubber followed in 1949, and its Gen-Tac adhesive was launched as a solution for tyre cord. The company was awarded patents for Nygen tyre fabric, radial tyre building machines, and a method (and machine) for improving the performance characteristics of pneumatic tyres.
It also opened what was then the world’s largest tyre testing track in Texas in 1959.
From a South African perspective, 1949 was a significant year. On 20 April, the General Tire and Rubber Company started production of its first tyres, tubes and repair materials at a new plant built in Port Elizabeth.
This was exactly one year after ground was broken for the new facility following the registration of the company in January 1947 as a venture between General Tire International and the Williams Hunt Group. In 1978, General Tyre South Africa concluded a technical services agreement with Continental AG, which gave the company access to the technology required to build high-performance steelbelt radial ply tyres in SA.
Seven years later the association was further consolidated when the German company approved the production of Continental-branded products at the Port Elizabeth factory. Continental tyres were launched locally in 1986 and quickly achieved success in both the original equipment (OE) and replacement markets. Internationally, the 1987 acquisition of General Tire in the US by Continental AG further reinforced the association between the two brands locally, and resulted in the release of a wide range of new products and supporting technologies.
In 1998, Continental AG acquired a majority 60 percent shareholding of General Tyre in SA, or Gentyre Industries as it was then known. The company was subsequently renamed Continental Tyre SA (Pty) Ltd.
The Port Elizabeth plant was awarded ISO 9000 quality management certification in 2000, and was the first SA manufacturer to begin production of tyres with advanced silica-based tread compounds that provided improved levels of handling and braking performance, as well as fuel efficiency. Continental Tyre SA (CTSA) was also awarded the German VDA6.1 certification for manufacturing, an automotive industry-based version of the ISO 9001 quality standard.
On 1 January 2003, Vusilango Industries, a black economic empowerment organisation, acquired 26 percent of the CTSA shares held at the time by Waicor, with Continental AG taking the remaining 14 percent.Ten years later, Continental AG bought back the Vusilango shares and gained 100% ownership of Continental Tyre SA. Within CTSA’s 2014 multi-brand product strategy, Continental retains its status as the company’s premium tyre brand, with an industry-leading level of OE fitment to the world’s top vehicle manufacturers.
The relaunch of General Tyre marks its positioning as CTSA’s contender in the value segment, with a strong focus on the replacement tyre market. It retains the brand’s core principles of performance, reliability, proven American heritage and value for money, while building on the high level of brand recognition and support achieved over 65 years of local production. This is reinforced with an expanded and highly competitive product line-up featuring a wide range of tyres that cover the passenger car, 4x4 and SUV, agricultural, mining, construction and specialist tyre categories. About Continental Corporation With sales of around €33.3 billion in 2013, Continental is among the leading automotive suppliers worldwide.
As a supplier of brake systems, systems and components for powertrains and chassis, instrumentation, infotainment solutions, vehicle electronics, tyres, and technical elastomers, Continental contributes to enhanced driving safety and global climate protection. Continental is also an expert partner in networked automobile communication. Continental currently employs around 182 000 people in 49 countries. As one of the world’s leading tyre manufacturers, with more than 44 000 employees, the tyre division achieved sales of €9.6 billion in 2012.
Today, the division has 24 production and development locations worldwide. The broad product range and continuous investments in R&D make a major contribution to cost-effective and ecologically efficient mobility. Continental’s Tyre Division is an Official Sponsor of the German DFB Cup, 2014 FIFA World CupTM in Brazil and the UEFA EURO 2016 in France.