Continental opens R&D center in California

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Continental AG Continental's new R&D center will serve as a hub for collaboration, bringing together experts from around the company.

Continental AG has opened a 65,000-square-foot research and development center in San Jose, Calif., that eventually will house technicians from all five of the auto supplier's divisions.

The facility has room for more than 300 employees, who will represent Conti's chassis and safety, interior, powertrain, tires, and rubber and plastics businesses, thus fostering cooperation among the divisions.

"If everyone is working together, we believe the innovation power will break loose," Samir Salman, Continental's CEO for North America said.

Conti said it invested "millions of dollars" in the new facility, and Salman said the supplier is investing "tens of millions" of dollars each year in its Silicon Valley operations, including salaries.

Continental has been in Silicon Valley since 2014, growing to 60 employees at its office in Santa Clara. Those employees will move to San Jose, along with engineers from the supplier's other locations.

About 70 percent of the expected 300 employees will be recruited from the Bay Area and surrounding universities. Salman said he expects the facility to house at least 120 by year-end and reach capacity by 2020.

Dirk Remde, formerly Continental's head of chassis electronics, will be the center's executive director.

Continental's focus on Silicon Valley will facilitate acquisitions and partnerships with tech companies and research universities as the supplier develops its autonomous driving technology, Salman said. It will also continue to develop electrified powertrains as well as exploring new mobility technologies.

"Our attention is focused on developing and shaping the environment of future mobility," Kurt Lehmann, Conti's corporate technology officer, said in a statement.

"The automotive industry is undergoing the biggest transformation in its 130-year history," he added. "In the past, it created value primarily using mechanical solutions. It then increased this value with help from sensors, electronics, software and digitalization.

Because the new center will function as a collaborative hub for facets of Continental's automotive businesses, it also should grow opportunities for the firm.

"Over the coming decades, most of the electrically powered, fully connected and automated vehicles in cities will be operated by mobility service providers and fleet managers," Lehmann said. "Continental connects vehicles' 'brains,' thus expanding the collective intelligence of the fleet. This is the kind of interdisciplinary collaboration taking place across Continental in San Jose, and it will result in new, additional business areas for our pioneering solutions."