When it comes to car tyres, Michelin are probably one of the most, if not the most recognisable brands in the industry. This is in no small part due to their universally recognised mascot, Bibendum, or as you might know him, the Michelin Man. Michelin is the biggest of the three largest tire manufacturers in the world, along with Bridgestone and Goodyear.
The Michelin Group was founded in 1889 by André and Édouard Michelin, also known as the Michelin brothers. They ran a rubber factory and founded the company after having to repair a bicycle tyre, and deciding to try to create a better kind of tyre (at the time, tyres were non-removable, which made repairing them difficult).
In 1891, they patented their first product, the first removal pneumatic tyre – which was subsequently used by the winner of the world’s first long-distance bicycle race.
In 1934, Michelin developed a tyre which if punctured, would keep functioning using a foam lining. This was the first incarnation of the run-flat tyre.
In 1946, Michelin developed the radial tyre which has become the standard design for almost all modern tyres.
Surprisingly enough, Michelin tyres and the prestigious Michelin stars given to restaurants come from the same group. In 1900, Michelin put out the first Michelin Guide which contained useful information for tourists and travellers, along with recommendations of hotels and restaurants. Michelin created the guide in order to boost demand for cars, and in turn, demand for tyres. However, over time, the Michelin star-system was introduced and over time, they have become a definitive symbol of the highest-quality dining in the world.
Michelin is also known for its long-standing publishing division. The company prints road maps of many countries, including France, Africa and the United States.
The Michelin Man
While most people know him only as the Michelin Man, the big white man’s real name is Bibendum and he’s one of the world’s oldest trademarks. He was invented when one of the Michelin brothers noticed a stack of tires that resembled a humanoid figure, and decided that a man made out of tyres would make a good mascot for Michelin. Four years later, they met an artist who had drawn a similar idea and after a few tweaks to the drawing, the Michelin Man was born. After a century or so, he’s noticeably slimmer then he was at the time of his creation, but apart from that not much has changed about him.