Bibendum, known to most simply as the Michelin Man, is one of the most recognised Company logos in the World. But how did the Company that has him as their mascot start and grow to what it is today? In this post, we look at the origins of the iconic French tyre brand.
As well as being one of the biggest tyre manufacturers in the world, Michelin is also a household name. This is partly thanks to the lasting appeal of their distinctive company mascot ‘Michelin Man’.
Although most famous today for manufacturing car tyres, Michelin also manufactures tyres for bicycles, motorcycles, heavy equipment and aircraft. They have even supplied tyres for space shuttles. With annual production now at over 166 million tyres a year, there is no doubt that Michelin is a legendary brand when it comes to tyres. But how and where did it all begin? Let’s take a closer look.
Brothers and Bicycles
Michelin’s ventures into rubber pneumatic tyres all began in a rubber factory in the city of Clermont-Ferrand in France. The year was 1889 and the factory was run by two brothers, Édouard Michelin and André Michelin. One day, a cyclist with a punctured tyre came to the factory for a repair. At the time, pneumatic tyres were glued to the rim and were near impossible to repair. The brothers immediately saw an opportunity to develop a removable tyre that did not need to be glued.
Michelin was incorporated on 28 May 1889, and in 1891 Michelin took out its first patent for a removable pneumatic tyre. The tyre went on to be used by Charles Terront to win the world’s first long-distance cycle race in the same year.
The Radial Tyre
A key development for the Michelin company was the creation of the radial tyre. This was an innovation that was to revolutionise the industry and lead the company to become a world leading tyre manufacturer.
A radial tyre is a particular design of vehicular tyre in which reinforcing cord plies are arranged at 90 degrees to the direction of travel beneath the main surface. The tyre was first adopted by Citroën for the iconic 2CV. Because of its superiority in handling and fuel economy, use of this tyre quickly spread throughout Europe and Asia.
Breaking into America
Michelin’s real breakthrough in America came when it received the contract for the 1970 Lincoln Continental Mark III. This was the first American car with radial tyres fitted as standard. Michelin went on to acquire the recently merged tyre and rubber manufacturing divisions of the American firms B.F. Goodrich Company and Uniroyal, Inc.
Although the uptake of the radial tyre was much slower in America than in Europe, by 2001 it had achieved a 100% market share.
The Formula One Years
When it comes to motoring, there is one place that truly sets the boundaries for innovation and performance – Formula One. And this is exactly where Michelin set out to showcase the brand at its best. However, it proved to be a rough ride with very mixed success. In the 2002 season, their tyres proved uncompetitive, however by 2005 they were the dominant tyre on the track. It was used by teams including Williams, Jaguar, Renault, Toyota and McLaren.
It was an episode later in the 2005 season, however, that was to be the beginning of the end for Michelin’s presence in Formula One. During the 2005 United States, Grand Prix Michelin decided, because of safety concerns, not to allow the teams it supplied to race. Not surprisingly they were hit hard by the bad publicity this generated and decided from the following year to pull out of Formula One.
Despite the ups and downs, they have experienced over the years, Michelin has maintained its worldwide dominance as a tyre manufacturer. The Company is currently reported to be the second largest tyre manufacturer in the world after Bridgestone and is larger than both Goodyear and Continental. They are pioneers in run-flat tyre technology that allows a tyre to be used temporarily even after experiencing a puncture, and are becoming more and more involved in sustainable motoring solutions.
For the best possible prices on a range of Michelin tyres, call Tyreland in Dublin today on 01 860 20 20 and one of our experts will be happy to advise you. As well offering incredible discounts and a huge range of tyres in stock, we are also renowned for our amazing customer service. Call us now or drop into your local fitting centre and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.