Michelin manufactures tyres for space shuttles, aircraft, automobiles, heavy equipment, motorcycles, and bicycles. In 2012, the Group produced 166 million tyres at 69 facilities located in 18 countries.
In 1889 two brothers, Édouard Michelin and André Michelin, ran a rubber factory in Clermont-Ferrand, France. One day, a cyclist whose pneumatic tyre needed repair turned up at the factory. The tyre was glued to the rim, and it took over three hours to remove and repair the tyre, which then needed to be left overnight to dry. The next day, Édouard Michelin took the repaired bicycle into the factory yard to test. After only a few hundred metres, the tyre failed. Despite the setback, Édouard was enthusiastic about the pneumatic tyre, and he and his brother worked on creating their own version, one that did not need to be glued to the rim. Michelin was incorporated on 28 May 1889. In 1891 Michelin took out its first patent for a removable pneumatic tyre which was used by Charles Terront to win the world's first long distance cycle race, the 1891 Paris–Brest–Paris.
In 1934, Michelin introduced a tyre which, if punctured, would run on a special foam lining, a design now known as a run-flat tyre (self-supporting type).
Michelin developed and patented a key innovation in tyre history, the 1946 radial tyre, and successfully exploited this technological innovation to become one of the worlds leading tyre manufacturers. The radial was initially marketed as the "X" tyre. It was developed with the front-wheel-drive Citroën Traction Avant and Citroën 2CV in mind. Michelin had bought the then-bankrupt Citroën in the 1930s. Because of its superiority in handling and fuel economy, use of this tyre quickly spread throughout Europe and Asia. In the U.S., the outdated bias-ply tyre persisted, with market share of 87% in 1967.
In 1968, Michelin opened its first North American sales office, and was able to grow that market for its products rapidly; by 1989 the company had 10% market share for OEM tyres purchased by American automobile makers.
Also in 1968, Consumer Reports, an influential American magazine, acknowledged the superiority of the radial construction, setting off a rapid decline in Michelin's competitor technology. In the U.S., the radial tyre now has a market share of 100%.
In addition to the private label and replacement tyre market, Michelin scored an early OEM tyre win in North America, when it received the contract for the 1970 Continental Mark III, the first American car with radial tyres fitted as standard.
In 1989, Michelin acquired the recently merged tyre and rubber manufacturing divisions of the American firms B.F. Goodrich Company (founded in 1870) and Uniroyal, Inc. (founded in 1892 as the United States Rubber Company) from Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. Uniroyal Australia had already been bought by Bridgestone in 1980. This purchase included the Norwood, North Carolina manufacturing plant which supplied tyres to the U.S. Space Shuttle Program.
Michelin also controls 90% of Taurus Tyre in Hungary, as well as Kormoran, a Polish brand.
As of 1 September 2008, Michelin is again the world's largest tyre manufacturer after spending two years as number two behind Bridgestone. Michelin produces tyres in France, Poland, Spain, Germany, the USA, the UK, Canada, Brazil, Thailand, Japan, India, Italy and several other countries. On 15 January 2010, Michelin announced the closing of its Ota, Japan plant, which employs 380 workers and makes the Michelin X-Ice tyre. Production of the X-Ice will be moved to Europe, North America, and elsewhere in Asia.
Michelin participated in MotoGP from 1972 to 2008. They introduced radial construction to MotoGP in 1984, and multi-compound tyres in 1994. They achieved 360 victories in 36 years, and from 1993 to 2006, the world championship had gone to a rider on Michelins.
In 2007, Casey Stoner on Bridgestone tyres won the world championship in dominating fashion, and Valentino Rossi and other top riders complained that Michelins were inferior. Rossi wanted Bridgestones for the 2008 season, but Bridgestone was reluctant to provide them; Dorna threatened to impose a control tyre on the series, after which Bridgestone relented.
In 2008, Michelin committed errors of judgment in allocating adequate tyres for some of the race weekends. Dani Pedrosa's team switched to Bridgestones in the midst of the season, a highly unusual move that caused friction between Honda Racing Corporation and their sponsor Repsol YPF. Other riders also expressed concerns and it seemed that Michelin might not have any factory riders for the 2009 season, leading to rumours that Michelin would withdraw from the series altogether. Dorna and the FIM announced that a control tyre would be imposed on MotoGP for the 2009 season and Michelin did not enter a bid, effectively ending its participation in the series at the end of 2008. Michelin returned to MotoGP in 2016 as official tyre supplier after Bridgestone's withdrawal from the series at the end of 2015.
Michelin first competed in the 1977 Formula One season, when Renault started development of their turbocharged F1 car. Michelin introduced radial tyre technology to Formula One and won the Formula One Drivers' Championship with Brabham and McLaren, before withdrawing at the end of 1984.
The company returned to Formula One in 2001, supplying the Williams, Jaguar, Benetton (renamed Renault in 2002), Prost and Minardi teams. Toyota joined F1 in 2002 with Michelin tyres, and McLaren also signed up with the company. Michelin tyres were initially uncompetitive but by the 2005 season were totally dominant. This was partly because the new regulations stated that tyres must last the whole race distance (and qualifying), and partly because only one top team (Ferrari) was running Bridgestones, and so had to do much of the development work. Michelin in contrast had much more testing and race data provided by the larger number of teams running their tyres.
Following the debacle of the 2005 United States Grand Prix where, because of safety concerns, Michelin would not allow the teams it supplies to race, Michelin's share price fell by 2.5% (though it recovered later the same day). On 28 June, Michelin announced that it would offer compensation to all race fans who had bought tickets for the Grand Prix. The company committed to refunding the price of all tickets for the race. Additionally, it announced that it would provide 20,000 complimentary tickets for the 2006 race to spectators who had attended the 2005 event.
Michelin has had a difficult relationship with the sport's governing body (the FIA) since around 2003, and this escalated to apparent disdain between the two parties during the 2005 season. The most high-profile disagreement was at the United States Grand Prix and the acrimony afterwards. Michelin criticised the FIA's intention to move to a single source (i.e. one brand) tyre from 2008, and threatened to withdraw from the sport. In a public rebuke FIA President Max Mosley wrote "There are simple arguments for a single tyre, and if [Michelin boss Édouard Michelin] is not aware of this, he shows an almost comical lack of knowledge of modern Formula One". Another bone of contention has been the reintroduction of tyre changes during pit-stops from 2006. Michelin criticised the move claiming "this event illustrates F1's problems of incoherent decision-making and lack of transparency".
In December 2005, and as a result of the difficult relationship with the sport's governing body, Michelin announced that it would not extend its involvement in Formula One beyond the 2006 season. Bridgestone was then the sole supplier of tyres to Formula One until the end of the 2010 season, with Pirelli providing tyres for 2011.
The last race won on Michelin tyres in Formula One was the 2006 Japanese Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso benefitting after the Ferrari engine of Michael Schumacher failed during the race. This gave Michelin a second consecutive Constructors' Championship win, with the 2005 and 2006, after Bridgestone's seven-year winning streak, and brought to a total of four the number of titles for Michelin since this championship's inception back in the 1958 Formula One season; Michelin's other titles were in the 1979, and 1984 seasons.
Michelin is involved in endurance races such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the American Le Mans Series. Involvement in Le Mans began with supplying tyres for the winner of the inaugural 1923 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as nine others of the 33 entrants. In 2009 Michelin supplied tyres for 41 of the 55 cars entered in Le Mans. In 2016 they provide the Audi, Porsche and Toyota LMP1 teams, as well as the AF Corse, BMW, Corvette, Ford Ganassi, Porsche and Risi teams in GTE-Pro / GTLM. Beginning in 2019, Michelin will replace Continental as the official tyre of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Along with supplying tyres for IMSA's top three series, the partnership includes naming rights for the Sports Car Challenge series and the North American Endurance Cup.
Michelin has also supplied tyres in the European Le Mans Series. The company is exclusive supplier of LMP3 since 2015.
In the World Rally Championship, Michelin has been supplier of the Audi, Citroën, Ford, Lancia, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Toyota and Volkswagen factory teams. Michelin Group brand BFGoodrich represented the brand in 2006 and 2007. The company was absent from 2008 to 2010, when Pirelli was signed as exclusive supplier, after which they returned to the series.
Active Wheel from Michelin includes in-wheel electric motors and a motorised suspension to free up space in the front or rear of the vehicle. This model also eliminates the need for other notorious space hogs like transmissions and exhaust systems. The wheels already have a vehicle ready to receive them, the Heuliez Will from Opel, and are also expected to come standard on the Venturi Volage sometime in 2012.
Tyre retail in Europe with Euromaster and in the US with its wholly owned subsidiary TCI Tyre Centers.
Michelin has long published two guidebook series, the Red Guides to hotels and restaurants, and the Green Guides for tourism. It now publishes several additional guides, as well as digital map and guide products. The city maps in both the Red and the Green guides are of high quality, and are linked to the smaller-scale road maps.
Michelin publishes a variety of road maps, mostly of France but also of other European countries, countries in Africa, Thailand and the United States. They have recently embarked in e-commerce selling Michelin maps and guides directly to the public through, for example, their UK website. The Michelin roadmaps were reproduced in England for the Allied invasion during World War II. The Germans also reproduced in 1940 the 1938 edition Michelin maps for the invasion.
ViaMichelin is a wholly owned subsidiary of Michelin Group, and was started in 2001, to represent Michelin's digital mapping services. As of August 2008, ViaMichelin generates 400 million maps and routes per month on its main website.
ViaMichelin provides mapping and travel solutions for internet, mobile and satellite navigation products with street level coverage of Europe, USA, Australia, and parts of Asia and South America.
In 1952, 6 years after Michelin patented its Radial Casing, Michelin adapted the radial technology to truck tyres.
From 1999, the company was headed by CEO Édouard Michelin. On 26 May 2006, Édouard drowned while fishing near the island of Sein, off the coast of Brittany. His death brought Michel Rollier, a 2nd cousin of Édouard Michelin, to the head of the company. Rollier was replaced in May 2012 by Jean-Dominique Senard. In 2018, Jean-Dominique Senard announced he would not seek re-election at the shareholders' meeting in 2019. As a result, the shareholders elected Florent Menegaux to succeed Senard starting in 2019.
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