Continental plans to double its worldwide sales in the next five years, said Stephan Kessel, chairman, at a ceremony to dedicate the company's new North American original equipment (OE) headquarters today.

The new 250,000-square-foot facility, located in Oakland County's Automation Alley, makes this growth possible by combining Continental's Detroit operations under one roof. Continental is poised to reach this goal through an equal blend of internal growth and portfolio management.

"Our headquarters building creates a culture that enables us to design, manufacture and market our tire, brake and suspension systems into total chassis systems," said Kessel. "Bringing our employees together will simplify our processes, making it easier to develop integrated systems that are complex, yet easy-to-use and affordable for our customers.

"In addition, we will rely on our excellent employees, like those here in Michigan, and stay focused on our key corporate strategies to achieve our goals," added Kessel. "These strategies include sustained cost leadership, active portfolio management and strong growth in highly profitable fields of business."

The new facility consolidates more than 500 employees from Continental's core operations -- Continental Teves, General Tire and ContiTech Products, which were formerly housed elsewhere in metro Detroit.

Continental celebrated this new direction with an all-day building dedication and flag raising ceremony for its customers and employees today, releasing thousands of orange balloons to commemorate the event. Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Auburn Hills Mayor Tom McMillin were on hand for the ceremony, as was television journalist Lou Dobbs.

The company displayed more than a dozen vehicles that are equipped with various Continental systems, including the BMW Z3, the Volkswagen Beetle, the Audi Allroad Quattro, the Ford Escape, the PT Cruiser, the Mercedes M-Class, the Toyota Tacoma, the Chrysler 300M, the Nissan Xterra and more.

The company has doubled North American business since 1997, and intends to triple its 1997 level by 2003. Last year alone, consolidated sales improved by 35 percent. Continental realized nearly $10 billion in revenue in 1999.

"Continental continues to develop a strong, vibrant presence in Southeast Michigan, and our new headquarters will help us contribute to the local economy," said Kessel. "We are proud to dedicate our new OE headquarters in North America, which represents our potential to become the top chassis systems supplier in North America."

As part of its commitment to safety on the road, Continental is currently engaged in a national safe driving initiative, "Drive Safer America!" This program, now in its fourth year, is designed to educate consumers about the benefits of safe driving habits and the proper use of new safety technologies such as anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Continental's Electronic Stability Program (ESP).

Continental is headquartered in Hanover, Germany, with 1999 sales of U.S. $9.7 billion. The company is a leading supplier of safety and comfort systems that contribute to driver safety and peace of mind.