German auto parts maker sees new growth engine

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German auto parts maker sees new growth engine

Continental AG, one of the world’s leading makers of auto parts, predicts a sales increase in Korea and around the world this year because of the potential of electronics parts in cars.

Helmut Matschi, president of Continental’s interior division, said next generation vehicles will always be “connected” with people.

“We see a slight growth [in our sales this year] around 5 percent to 34 billion euros ($43.5 billion) for this year,” Matschi said yesterday in Seoul. “We have our businesses in rubber, tires, electronics and other parts, and this diversified strategy helps us to realize our numbers.”

He said the company’s 2012 sales were 32.7 billion euros ($42 billion), up 7.3 percent from the previous year.

Matschi, who is one of eight executive board members of Continental Corporation, said Korean companies are important customers in Asia.

The German auto parts maker has been putting significant resources into Continental Korea, which has seven factories with 2,300 employees. The Korean unit reports a slight decline in sales after collecting 2 trillion won ($1.78 billion) in 2012, but hopes to grow again with the trend toward electronic convergence in vehicles. Last year, Continental teamed up with Korea’s SK Innovation to set up a joint venture called SK Continental E-motion to produce batteries for electric vehicles.

Matschi said recent actions by North Korea would not affect plans for doing business in South Korea, saying the company as a “clear long-term path.”

He added that Korea’s free trade agreements with the United States and European Union are an important benefit to the company, and Continental, as a global company, supports actions that promote trade.

“I really appreciate FTAs around here,” Matschi said. “Korea is an exporting country and I think they will bring successful results.”

According to data from the German Association of the Automotive Industry, German suppliers saw a drop of 13 percent in sales to Korea last year, but Matschi said that is not the case for Continental because it has factories here.

By Joo Kyung-don []

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