Let's assume that all car companies manufacture 100 million cars every year, that means it needs four (five if we count the spare) tires for it to get sold. It's quite challenging to sell a car without tires, so four tires is a must. That's 400 million tires manufactured every year. The multiplier will increase if trucks are involved, so in reality, it's really so much more than 400 million. Tire companies do pretty well if we think about it, how many times have we stopped to change tires in our life, right? Which ones are the best tire companies really, this article tells us who they are.
The North America Michelin most people know today has been around since 1950 but it's actually much older than that. The company's roots are traced to 1907 when it bought a company in New Jersey called International Rubber Company. Today, Michelin has 19 plants on the continent and provides a livelihood to more than 22,000 employees. In the fifties, Michelin's radial tire was most popular in the trucking industry.
It was Ford and SEARS that helped Michelin revolutionize the tire industry and introduce the radial tire to the passenger vehicle starting in the late sixties. Then in 1989, Michelin became the largest tire company in the world with the acquisition of Uniroyal-Goodrich Tire Company.
It was while he was in prison that Charles Goodyear started playing with the idea of a more resilient kind of rubber tire during the 1830s. He toyed with the idea later on and started dedicating his life to finding the correct formula. It was called vulcanization and the key ingredients were sulfur and the proper heat. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company was in no way connected to him or his family, but the entire rubber manufacturing business came back to life because of him. Today, Goodyear is one of the most popular tire brands in the world and earning $15.5 billion (2018) in yearly sales globally, that name still and will always be Charles' last name.
The Bridgestone Tire Company was established in 1931 by a man from Kurume City, Japan named Shojiro Ishibashi. Bridgestone was the literal translation of his last name. He inherited the family business at an early age and by age 41 he founded what would be one of the largest tire companies in the world. A true Japanese icon, Ishibashi expanded his business empire from the Land of the Rising Sun further west. By 1988, Bridgestone acquired Firestone and that was how it quickly became a globally-known tire brand. It's the first choice for almost all types of vehicles, from trucks, motorcycles, heavy equipment, to aircraft and passenger vehicles.
Pirelli is one of the rare tire companies focused on passenger vehicles, or according to them: a Pure Consumer Tyre Company. This fact translates to 93 percent of Pirelli's revenue coming from consumer car tires and 7 percent from motorcycles. The company was established in 1872 by founder Giovanni Battista Pirelli of Milan, Italy. Pirelli is FIM World Superbike Championship's exclusive tire provider since 2007. This establishes their superiority in the motorcycle branch of the tire business. Pirelli is also the official tire of Formula One Racing for the ninth straight year now. We often also see Pirelli on the chest of athletes in skiing and soccer.
Germany's biggest tire company and one of the biggest in the world is Continental AG. It was established in 1871 in Hanover. This is the company to make the first-ever automobile tire 115 years ago, and then the first detachable rim for cars four years later.
Throughout the century, Continental would acquire a number of other tire companies and more in different industries related to automotive transportation, technology, plastics, and rubber not just in Europe and North America, but in Asia (China, India) as well. Continental manufactures passenger tires, light truck/SUV, winter, and performance tires among other products.
Yokohama is a more obvious company, unlike Bridgestone, that came from Japan. This company has been in the industry since 1917, originating from the city of Tokyo, it's global name is Yokohama Rubber Co., Ltd., the North American one is Yokohama Tire Corporation. Yokohama's tires in North America are manufactured here as well, they have plants in two cities. One is in Salem, Virginia and the other is in West Point, Mississippi. We can be sure to get a set that's "Made in the USA" on our purchase. Yokohama produces tires for the five types of vehicles: passenger and performance cars, SUVs, trucks, and minivans.
One can speculate that Dunlop tires were really made for racing. This was how it was used after its inception by inventor and founder John Boyd Dunlop. For the love of his son, he wrapped the boy's tricycle wheels with an inflatable rubber sheet, finding it helped the wheels roll better and that was when pneumatic tires were (re)born (another man had patented it years earlier but never did anything with it). He used the idea and put them in a racing bike and it won many races that year, drawing the attention of investors. The first Dunlop facility was set up in Dublin, Ireland. Today, Dunlop is operating under the Goodyear tire company.
Hyundai and Kia are joined in the automotive industry by Korean tire company Hankook. These three companies are all leading brand names in the auto world. Hankook was established in 1941 as the Chosun Tire Company and they're the first tire company in this Asian country. Twelve years later the name change to Hankook happened and with the aftermath of the Korean War the country slowly progressed economically and industrially and Hankook along with it. By the eighties, the company had expanded export to Europe and the US. In 1992 Hankook established a research center in America and in 2008 an original equipment partnership with Audi.
Cooper is one of the remaining true American tire companies still operating in today's market. It started in Akron, Ohio, one century and four years ago as M & M Company, then it merged with Cooper Corporation in 1919. They merged again with another company to form The Master Tire & Rubber Company. Post-war 1946 marked a new world and a new name for the company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company. More than 70 years later, Cooper is still an American company, with the same headquarters in Akron, numerous plants all over the country, and operating under American big brother Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.
1 BF Goodrich
The city of Akron in Ohio is such an important place in the tire manufacturing industry of the United States that it's known as the Rubber Capital of the World. Decades before Cooper Tires started here, Benjamin Franklin Goodrich established the first-ever tire factory in the country. After that, the company has made more iconic feats in innovation and successful undertakings than your fingers and toes could count. BF Goodrich made the first tubeless tires for American vehicles and the world's first all-terrain tire. The company also assisted aviator Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis in making history in 1927. Today, BF Goodrich is still known as a reliable racing and performance tire provider.