Getting to know Continental Tires by Touring Their New Headquarters

Getting to know a brand can also mean understanding the people behind it. So we toured Continental Tires new North American HQ to see what drives them.

The Lobby In The New Continental Tires North American Headquarters
The lobby in the new Continental Tires North American headquarters. Photo: Scotty Reiss

I Like to Know How a Company Rolls Before Investing in Their Product. Don’t You?

It’s not many people who get excited for an invitation to tour the headquarters of a tire company.

But you can put me in that column.

Maybe I’m just a geek about these things, but I like to know about the company that I invest in when I buy their products, especially if I’m trusting my safety and that of my family to that product.

Which is exactly what you do when you buy tires. Those rounds of rubber are the only thing between you and the pavement. You trust them to stop your car when you hit the brakes and keep the car in its lane when you accelerate. Failure can be devastating.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Scotty Reiss (@scottyreiss)

So I like to know who these people are, what matters to them, how invested their employees are in their jobs, what sparks passion and innovation in their culture. Seeing the new North American headquarters of Continental Tires was a great way to see the culture at work and to talk to people to find out.

Related: I went to Korea and Discovered the Soul of Kia and Hyundai, Korea’s Car Kings

A Display In The New Continental Hq Tells The Brand'S Story

A display in the new Continental HQ tells the brand’s stories. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Meet Continental Tires

You have probably seen the Continental name when shopping for tires; your car may have come with Continental tires as original equipment, and if you’re a motorsports fan, you’ve probably seen the name emblazoned over tracks and on the sides of race cars.

This 153 year old company from Hanover, Germany is among the top tire suppliers to car makers, race teams and tire stores – as well as for every type of vehicle from bicycles to earth-moving tractors.

And, they are among the top innovators in tire technology. As car makers have evolved the cars they sell, with more capability for off road and challenging conditions, more performance for track and sport driving and better energy efficiency, Continental has worked with the industry to deliver tires that help them achieve those goals.

So, how does a company come up with all those innovations and solutions? That’s the magic of a company’s culture and its offices are often the functional foundation of that culture.

Related: Designed for Innovation: Toyota’s New North American Headquarters

A Semi-Private Feeling Is Created For This Meeting Room With An Open Top And A Louvered Wall

A semi-private feeling is created for this meeting room with an open top and a louvered wall. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A New HQ Designed to Be Continental’s Forever Home

I sort of chuckled when I heard an executive on the dais call the new HQ the company’s ‘forever home.’ That’s a term we’re used to hearing when we talk about adopting a pet.

But really, when it comes to a home that’s designed with everything you need right now and the function and space you need to grow when you’re ready, you can really think about staying there forever.

That was the mission for Continental and their architect, GreshamSmith, a Charlotte-based firm that specializes in design for auto industry clients.

Continental planed the new HQ for a 33-acre tract of land next to its existing office building, one of many facilities that it operates in South Carolina.

Related: Why You Want Your Daughter to Work For General Motors

The Outdoors Are Invited Inside Throughout The Building

The outdoors are invited inside throughout the building. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Employees Have a Say in the New Design

Even before putting pen to paper on a design, the company surveyed employees to find out what they wanted and needed in a new office. The answers were surprising: they wanted to be closer to nature, to be able to see and experience the outdoors while in the office; they wanted collaborative spaces; they wanted a building that was sensitive to the climate and the environment around them. They wanted someplace to store bikes. They wanted good coffee.

The architects at GreshamSmith had ideas too: they wanted to create spaces that would distinctly feel “Continental.” They wanted the space to feel comfortable and homey. They agreed on bringing nature indoors. They wanted people to break bread together and to work off the calories by taking the stairs; there is only one elevator in the building but there are several wide, open-feeling stair cases in the 3-story building.

They wanted to create opportunities for “collaborative collisions” that would make time in the office uniquely inspiring and rewarding, something that you don’t get from Zoom meetings and Slack channels.

A Meditation Room Is Calm And Quiet

A meditation room is calm and quiet. Photo: Scotty Reiss

How the Pandemic Shaped the Design, Too

Work on the building started before the pandemic, which naturally slowed things down, but it also helped to tweak the plan, putting more emphasis on flexible desk space that they call “hotel desks” for visiting colleagues and to accommodate hybrid work/home schedules. There are huddle rooms, meditation spaces and meeting spaces that can be expanded to accommodate a huge number of people,

And there is a meeting room that can become a sealed space with its own HVAC so contaminants can be contained; it has a separate entrance for emergency responders should someone need medical attention. Most of these things were wish-list items before the pandemic but now they’re must-haves.

And, the surrounding woods will eventually be home to a walking trail so team members can get out for a good walk or a walk-and-talk during the day, another activity we came to more greatly value during the pandemic.

A Meeting Decorated In Room In Continental Orange

A meeting decorated in room in Continental orange. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What It Feels Like in Continental’s Space

This is what it really boils down to: What does the space feel like? As we toured the building, starting on the 3rd floor and working our way down to the ground floor, I found space after space where I just wanted to spread out with my computer, plug it into the outlet on the table and let my creativity flow.

The orange room anchored by a white board and dotted with white tables and orange ottomans felt very ‘continental,’ like something you might find in a boutique hotel in Ibiza.

Sprawling sofas and springy chairs look as if they will rebound your energy right into the air; as if they are designed to let you soak up the infusive ideas of others and build on them (which I do think is the case).

Flowering trees and tall waving grasses beyond the windows are more of a backdrop than a distraction, bringing calm into the room.

The Lobby In The New Continental Tire North American Headquarters

The lobby in the new Continental Tires North American headquarters. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Of Course, There Are Tires — On a Corvette Stingray

But lest we forget why we are there — to push the auto industry forward with precision and control — the Continental brand is showcased in the building’s lobby: a Continental-clad Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is painted in gold and black and emblazoned with the brand’s logo. A logo also adorns the far wall, a prancing steed surrounded by the Continental name.

A banner hangs above the lobby and etched glass logos decorate the doors. All of it is surprisingly warm and welcoming thanks to the honeyed wood slats that are stacked three floors high along the interior wall. It serves to make space feel solid rather than the hollow feel an atrium can have.

The palette of Continental orange, wood, glass and slate flooring come together to for a modern and welcoming feel, much more human than you might expect from a company focused on engineering tires for the auto industry.

And, it felt confident: an investment in the people who will develop innovations and engineer solutions; where tires become not just a functional piece of rubber but a key component to loving our cars and how they make us fee. An investment in the community that Continental calls home, including the donation of $10,000 worth of tires to local emergency responders. And a space where magic will happen that we may not ever see, but we certainly will feel as we stop short on the highway or relax on a long drive.

Isn’t it good to know something about the people behind the technology that you rely on every day?

A Contemplative Cubby

A contemplative cubby. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Disclosure: I was a guest of Continental for this event. Travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own. Additionally, A Girls Guide to Cars may earn a commission from affiliate links in this story.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss