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Unlocking New Growth for Continental: Beyond Tire and the Power of Ecosystem Thinking

Who is Continental?

Continental, founded in 1871 and headquartered in Germany, is a global leader in automotive technology and solutions. While it initially gained prominence as a tire manufacturer, Continental has significantly diversified its portfolio to include a wide range of automotive-related products and services. Today, Continental’s portfolio spans several key areas:

  • Tire Manufacturing: Including high-performance, all-season, and specialty tires for passenger and light trucks, commercial vehicles, and various industrial applications.
  • Automotive Technologies: Encompassing advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), braking systems, airbag technologies, powertrain and chassis solutions, and infotainment and connectivity systems.
  • Rubber and Plastic Products: Providing industrial solutions such as conveyor belts, hoses, and vibration control technologies, as well as consumer goods.
  • Digital Solutions and Services: Offering comprehensive fleet management solutions, tire monitoring systems, and digital platforms for intelligent transportation systems and smart city solutions.

Continental’s strategic focus on innovation and technology integration has positioned it as a key player in the future of mobility. However, as the automotive industry evolves, so must Continental’s approach to ensure continued growth and relevance.

What is at Risk for Continental?

As a tier 1 supplier, Continental plays a crucial role in the supply chains of key car manufacturers (OEMs). This position, while prestigious, comes with its challenges, particularly the risk of stagnating growth. The automotive industry is undergoing rapid transformation driven by trends such as electrification, autonomous driving, connectivity, and sustainability. For Continental, the risks include:

  • Commoditization of Products: As core products like tires and traditional automotive components become commoditized, profit margins could shrink.
  • Dependence on OEMs: Relying heavily on OEMs for revenue makes Continental vulnerable to the changing dynamics and purchasing decisions of a few large clients.
  • Slow Adoption of New Technologies: If Continental fails to rapidly adapt to emerging technologies and consumer demands, it risks losing market share to more agile competitors.


How Can an Ecosystem Perspective Help to Unlock New Growth?

Adopting an ecosystem perspective can help Continental unlock new growth by leveraging network effects, enhancing customer value, and driving innovation. Here’s how:

  • Network Effects and Ecosystem Growth: Creating platforms that connect various stakeholders in the mobility ecosystem, such as automakers, suppliers, service providers, and end-users, enhances collaboration and communication. This scalability increases the value of the network, attracting more participants.
  • Enhanced Customer Value: Offering integrated solutions that combine hardware, software, and services provides greater value to customers. Personalized and convenient services enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Driving Innovation: By adopting an open platform approach, Continental can foster innovation through collaborations with startups, tech companies, and other industry players, leading to the development of innovative applications and services.
  • Monetization Opportunities: Platforms enable new revenue streams through subscription models, marketplace commissions, and data monetization.
  • Strategic Partnerships and Ecosystem Leadership: By orchestrating the mobility ecosystem, Continental can forge strategic partnerships and set industry standards, enhancing its market position.

“Beyond Tire”: The new portfolio strategy for Continental

Under the “Beyond Tire” strategy, Continental should focus on expanding or merging segments with rising demand and where their current portfolio aligns well or has potential to grow. Here are the recommended segments:

  • Autonomous Vehicles: Invest further in ADAS and develop technologies for fully autonomous driving.
  • Connected Cars: Enhance infotainment, connectivity solutions, and advanced telematics.
  • Electric Vehicles (EVs): Develop specialized powertrain and chassis solutions for EVs, including battery management systems.
  • Smart Infrastructure: Combine mobility services and intelligent transportation systems to create comprehensive smart infrastructure solutions for cities.
  • Fleet Management: Leverage existing solutions and develop integrated platforms for predictive maintenance and operational efficiency.
  • Mobility Services: Integrate digital platforms for smart city solutions with mobility services for seamless urban mobility experiences.
  • Vehicle Safety Systems: Invest further in braking systems, airbag technologies, and ADAS.
  • In-Car Entertainment: Develop more advanced infotainment systems offering personalized and immersive user experiences.
  • Navigation Systems: Enhance navigation technologies with real-time traffic data and augmented reality.
  • Sustainable Mobility: Invest in sustainable tire technologies and other eco-friendly automotive solutions.
  • Shared Mobility: Enter the shared mobility market with innovative solutions through partnerships or acquisitions.
  • Urban Mobility Solutions: Combine smart city solutions and mobility services to provide holistic urban mobility solutions.

Ecosystem Segments and Continental’s Focus Areas

Ecosystem SegmentsContinental PortfolioDemand Trend (Next 5 Years)Strategy
Autonomous VehiclesAdvanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)RisingExpand
Connected CarsInfotainment and Connectivity, TelematicsRisingExpand
Electric Vehicles (EVs)Powertrain and ChassisRisingExpand
Smart InfrastructureMobility Services, Intelligent Transportation SystemsRisingMerge
Fleet ManagementFleet Management Solutions, Tire Monitoring SystemsRisingExpand
Mobility ServicesDigital Platforms for Smart City SolutionsRisingMerge
Vehicle Safety SystemsBraking Systems, Airbag Technologies, ADASRisingExpand
In-Car EntertainmentInfotainment SystemsRisingExpand
Navigation SystemsNavigation TechnologiesRisingExpand
Tire ManufacturingPassenger and Light Truck Tires, Commercial Vehicle TiresRising
Sustainable Mobilityn/aRisingDevelop
Shared Mobilityn/aRisingDevelop
Urban Mobility SolutionsMobility ServicesRisingMerge
Logistics and TransportationCommercial Vehicle Tires, Fleet Management SolutionsRisingExpand
Smart City SolutionsMobility Services, Intelligent Transportation SystemsRisingMerge
Industrial ApplicationsIndustrial Solutions (Conveyor Belts, Hoses)Stable
Consumer GoodsRubber and Plastic ComponentsStable

How could a Platform Play help Continental?

Focusing on platforms can create a strategic advantage for Continental by orchestrating the mobility ecosystem. Here’s how:

  • Network Effects: Platforms increase in value as more users join, creating a virtuous cycle of growth and engagement.
  • Enhanced Customer Value: Integrated solutions provide seamless and valuable experiences for users, increasing satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Innovation: Open platforms encourage third-party developers to create innovative solutions, fostering a dynamic ecosystem.
  • Monetization: Platforms enable new revenue streams through subscriptions, marketplace transactions, and data monetization.
  • Strategic Partnerships: By positioning itself as an ecosystem leader, Continental can forge strategic alliances and influence industry trends.

How to expand, but not risking the current position?

To advance its position in the value chain without losing its value for manufacturers, Continental should:

  • Develop End-to-End Solutions: Move beyond individual components to offer comprehensive solutions that integrate hardware, software, and services.
  • Focus on Innovation and R&D: Invest in research and development to stay ahead of technological trends and collaborate with OEMs and tech companies.
  • Enhance Customer Relationships: Work closely with car manufacturers to co-create customized solutions and establish dedicated support teams.
  • Diversify Revenue Streams: Transition to service-based models, offer analytics services, and explore new monetization opportunities.
  • Leverage Digital Transformation: Develop IoT and AI solutions that enhance connectivity and offer new services like predictive maintenance.
  • Sustainability and Compliance: Lead in sustainability practices and ensure compliance with evolving regulations.
  • Strategic Mergers and Acquisitions: Pursue acquisitions that complement Continental’s portfolio and integrate new technologies.
  • Brand and Market Positioning: Strengthen the Continental brand and position the company as a thought leader in the automotive industry

Summary & Conclusion

As this is a fictive case study, it should help you to understand how even a locked-in tier 1 value chain player, can unlock new growth by applying an effective ecosystem strategy.

Continental, a global leader in automotive technology, faces the challenge of stagnating growth as a tier 1 supplier. By adopting an ecosystem perspective and focusing on platforms, Continental can unlock new growth opportunities and enhance its value proposition. The “Beyond Tire” strategy identifies key mobility segments for expansion, including autonomous vehicles, connected cars, and smart infrastructure. Embracing digital transformation, fostering innovation, and forming strategic partnerships will help Continental advance its position in the value chain while maintaining its value to car manufacturers. This comprehensive approach will ensure Continental remains a pivotal player in the rapidly evolving automotive landscape.

Below you will find further insights from our work with organizations around the globe to launch and scale businesses based on network effects and a positive impact to our society.

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We, GmbH (Registered business address: Germany), process personal data for the operation of this website only to the extent technically necessary. All details in our privacy policy.