COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—When Andreas Gerstenberger returned to the U.S. to lead ContiTech A.G.'s Industrial Fluid Systems global business unit last November, he didn't expect to find the hose business exciting.
But after spending 21 years in Continental A.G.'s tire business, holding a variety of positions both in Europe and the U.S., the Conti-Tech executive vice president liked what he found in the business, as well as what he sees as a bright future.
“My first impressions are different from what I thought in the beginning,” Gerstenberger said during an interview at NAHAD's annual convention in Colorado Springs.
“Hose really is an exciting business field to be in. In the industrial fluid arena, we basically are working with so many different industries that the variety I have experienced since I started positively surprised me.”
His road to the Industrial Fluid Systems headquarters in Fairlawn, Ohio—the first Conti-Tech global business unit located outside of Germany—started when he joined Continental in 1994. Gerstenberger spent his first four years at the tire maker's headquarters in logistics. Then he moved into the original equipment side of the business and was responsible for business with Ford and General Motors.
After two years, he relocated to Auburn Hills, Mich., to oversee the OEM business with all U.S. auto makers, both domestic and transplants. From there it was on to Charlotte, N.C., where he led the U.S. sales and marketing aftermarket team, a post he held until 2009. After nine years in the U.S., he moved back to Europe and oversaw a retail unit that operated sales and service outlets in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.
Then he was approached in July 2015 to gauge his interest in returning to the U.S., change divisions and lead the industrial hose business. That was not long after ContiTech had closed on the Veyance Technologies Inc. acquisition, and it was determined the hose unit should be based at the former Veyance headquarters because the industrial business was larger in North America than what ContiTech had in Europe.
Gerstenberger said there has been more movement in recent years of staff within Continental, particularly between its two rubber businesses. There were several solid reasons for him to get the nod to lead the unit.
He had strong ties to the U.S., was familiar with business practices both in Europe and the U.S., and had learned quite a bit from when Conti had worked to integrate General Tire into the company early in his career.
“I also have a pretty broad business perspective,” he said, “from the OE side, from the headquarters side and from the aftermarket. I've basically worked in all parts of the value chain. So I was very honored and glad to be asked to take over this newly formed business unit.”