Continental has said unpredictability in China will continue for some time as automakers and suppliers adjust to more modest levels of growth.

China's economy is no longer posting the breathtaking numbers it once did but the country nonetheless stilll offers represents massive opportunities for western suppliers who are investing heavily in the huge market. 

"GDP is slowing down - this very volatile market will stay in the next years," said Continental China president and CEO Ralf Cramer at this week's Global Automotive Forum (GAF) in Chongqing. 

"This volatility is not on a yearly trend - it is on a monthly and quarterly trend. For Continental, agility is the name of the game. In China, it is about surviving and thriving in an era of slower growth. 

"We are still in profitable growth but with all these changes we have to be really careful, very concentrated and focused. We spend EUR2.4bn (US$2.7bn) for R&D. Truly, this is the more important message - we have to be strong more than just talking about sales."

Cramer also noted that, despite China being a relatively new player in the automotive sector, it was rapidly catching up and out-powering the more traditional economies of the west, and was also keen to embrace new technologies such as automated driving.

"The automotive industry is 100 years old - it is 50 years old in China. We have a huge gap and, at the same time, the speed of change is faster in the last 10, 20, 30 years than the US or Japan [for example]. 

"It is now moving from 'Made in China' to 'Made by China'.

"China is also the country with the highest score believing 'I will ride automated driving'. This will happen sooner then my colleagues in Germany expect."