$110M Self-Driving Systems Plant Opens in Texas

Production is under way at the San Antonio-area facility.

The new Continental facility in New Braunfels, Texas

The new Continental facility in New Braunfels, Texas. Image courtesy of Continental

Continental, which manufactures parts for autonomous driving systems, has completed a $110 million, 215,000-square-foot facility in New Braunfels, Texas. The new plant is located about 15 miles from another Continental facility in Seguin, Texas.

The Germany-based company—which also has facilities in Auburn Hills, Mich., and Santa Barbara, Calif.—held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday to mark the end of the construction process that began in 2020, but was delayed by the pandemic. More than 150 state and local officials as well as community members attended the event and toured the new plant, which has already begun operations. The company expects to ramp up production, add more workers in 2023 and reach about 580 employees over four years.

Located on 48 acres off Interstate 35, the plant is part of Continental’s Autonomous Mobility business area and will manufacture radars, sensors and other products for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that are the foundation of assisted and automated driving.

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With the new location, Continental is expanding its R&D and manufacturing capabilities in the U.S. The 320,000-square-foot Seguin plant operates under the name Vitesco Technology and employs more than 1,500 people in the company’s powertrain division.

Frank Petznick, member of the firm’s Automotive Board and head of Business Area Autonomous Mobility, said in a prepared statement that Continental has been researching and developing ADAS systems for more than 25 years. Petznick added that the new plant will play a critical role as the company grows its ADAS business in North America and will also support its goal of vision zero—zero traffic fatalities, injuries and crashes on roadways.

Local incentives

Continental’s new automotive manufacturing location in New Braunfels, Texas

Continental’s new automotive manufacturing location in New Braunfels, Texas. Image courtesy of Continental

Continental has received about $5.5 million in incentives for the New Braunfels plant, according to local media reports. Comal County commissioners and New Braunfels City Council members approved separate incentive packages in 2019, including 10-year property tax rebates if certain employment and wage levels are met by the company. The New Braunfels Economic Development Corp., which is funded by a designated sales tax, provided money to the company for infrastructure, land acquisition and sewer improvements.

At Tuesday’s ceremony, Continental donated a total of $20,000 to the New Braunfels and Comal Independent school districts to support the Career and Technical Education Manufacturing programs offered by the districts. New Braunfels Mayor Rusty Brockman said in prepared remarks the city is excited to see Continental grow in the community and create well-paying jobs in engineering and manufacturing.

Booming industrial market

New Braunfels is located midway between San Antonio and Austin, and is part of the San Antonio industrial market. The overall vacancy in the market is 7.5 percent. In New Braunfels, the manufacturing vacancy is 2.3 percent and overall industrial vacancy, including warehouse and distribution, is 1.9 percent, according to a JLL report for the second quarter. The San Antonio industrial market has experienced 11 quarters of positive absorption as of the second quarter, and that streak was expected to continue through the third quarter due to a steady development pipeline, rent growth and users preparing to occupy, JLL also reported.

A CBRE report on emerging industrial markets released in the spring noted the Texas I-35 industrial corridor continues to grow at a rapid pace. The report stated New Braunfels is among the fastest-growing cities in the country, attracting many manufacturing and distribution users. With the influx of new residents and company relocations, robust industrial activity is expected to continue.

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