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Michelin is a tyre manufacturer based in Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne région of France. It is one of the two largest tyre manufacturers in the world along with Bridgestone. In addition to the Michelin brand, it also owns the BFGoodrich, Taurus, Riken, Kormoran and Uniroyal (in North America) tyre brands. It is also notable for its Red and Green travel guides, its roadmaps, the Michelin stars that the Red Guide awards to restaurants for their cooking, and for its company mascot Bibendum, colloquially known as the Michelin Man.
Tyres and wheels
Michelin manufactures tyres for space shuttles, aircraft, automobiles, heavy equipment, motorcycles, and bicycles.
Two brothers, Édouard 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 which did not need to be glued to the rim. Michelin was incorporated on 28 May 1888. In 1891, it 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.
Michelin has made a number of innovations to tyres, including in 1946 the radial tyre (then known as the "X" tyre). It was developed with the front-wheel-drive Citroën Traction Avant and Citroën 2CV in mind. For military use and specialized vehicles like bank armoured cars, in 1934, a tire was introduced by Michelin Tire Co., France, which used technology from tires developed for local commuter trains and trolley's which had a safety rim inside the tire which if punctured would run on a special tire with a foam lining. These tires were not advertized as bullet proof, but as semi-bullet proof. While the tire could performed as advertized they were way to expensive for general commercial use by private automobile users. Michelin had bought the then bankrupt Citroën in the 1930s. As of August 2008, this tyre is still available for the 2CV.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Michelin operated large rubber plantations in Vietnam. The Vietnamese workers were exploited pitilessly and brutally, which led to the famous labor movement Phu Rieng Do.
In 1988, Michelin acquired the tyre and rubber manufacturing divisions of the American B.F. Goodrich Company founded in 1870. This included the Norwood, North Carolina manufacturing plant which supplies tyres to the U.S. Space Shuttle Program. Two years later, it bought Uniroyal, Inc., founded in 1892 as the United States Rubber Company. Uniroyal Australia had already been bought by Bridgestone in 1980.
Michelin also controls 90% of Taurus Tire 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, Germany, USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Thailand, Japan, Italy and several other countries. On 15 January 2010, Michelin announced closing of its Ota, Japan plant, which employes 380 workers and makes the Michelin X-Ice tyre. Production of the X-Ice will be moved to Europe, Asia, and North America.
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's tyres continued to be perceived as being inferior to Bridgestone's, and 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 rumors 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 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, before withdrawing in 1984.
The company returned to Formula One in 2001, supplying Williams, Jaguar, Benetton (renamed Renault in 2002), Prost and Minardi. 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 wins for Michelin since this event's inception back in the 1958 Formula One season; Michelin's other wins were in the 1979, and 1984 seasons.
Michelin is involved in endurance racing such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the American Le Mans Series. In 2009 Michelin supplied tyres for 41 of the 55 cars entered in Le Mans.
- Pax System
- X One
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 ATS Euromaster and TCI in the US
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, 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.
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.
Michelin Challenge Bibendum
The Michelin Challenge Bibendum is an annual major sustainable mobility event.