The Michelin name is one that is immediately associated with the motoring industry. A bit like Ferrari, Mercedes and Ford; Michelin tyres instantly resonate with motorists around the world and that is in no small part down to the French brand’s reputation for high quality, reliable tyres
As more and more people start to think about getting out on the racing track or to get their hands dirty with some upgrades and new tyres for the summer; we felt that it was time to make Michelin our latest brand of the month. Here we’ll take a bit of an in-depth look at how Michelin built their reputation – starting from the early days making and selling tyres in France to becoming the global superpower that we know and trust today.
A brief history of Michelin
The Michelin journey started in the Auvergne region of France back in 1889. Clermont-Ferrand may not be a town that instantly comes to mind when you think of France – not like Paris, Bordeaux and Le Mans, anyway – but Michelin soon put the town on the map.
Edouard Michelin took over a rubber goods and farm machinery factory and gave it a complete rebrand including a new name – Michelin et Cie (Michelin and Co.) Within two years, Michelin were creating some of the most popular bicycle tyres (rather than car or motorcycle tyres which they are known for today) of the time, which is where the brand story begins.
That was the start of something much bigger for Michelin and by 1905 they had opened a premises here in the UK – just 16 years after forming and only 10 years after making their first Michelin car tyres.
How did we get from Michelin tyres to Michelin star restaurants?
The Michelin tyre company wasn’t actually Edouard Michelin’s only business venture. Alongside his brother, Andre, Michelin gave its name to a series of guide books created to encourage people to get out and explore various towns and villages – thereby using their bikes (and later cars) and – coincidentally – wearing out their tyres which would then need to be replaced!
The Michelin guide books featured a number of restaurants and places to visit, and the brains behind the books decided it would be a good move to review some of them. The critics, if you like, awarded a series of stars to the very best places to eat and the rest is history – the Michelin Star was born and remains a coveted sign of quality to this day.
Who is the Michelin Man?
In 1898 Michelin made the decision that they needed an iconic logo, a character that represented the brand and would help to make them one of the most instantly recognisable brands in the world. This character, taking the form of a stack of tyres, was to become known as “The Michelin Man.”
To mark the Michelin Man’s 100th birthday in 1998, Michelin created an event to showcase “clean” vehicle technologies known as the Michelin Challenge Bibendum – which is the Michelin Man’s real name. The event is still around today although it is now known as the Michelin Global Sustainable Mobility Summit.
In 2000, the Michelin Man was voted the best brand icon of all time by the Financial Times and he remains the face of Michelin to this day (although that face has been given several modern-day makeovers over the years!) Somewhat ironically, the Bibendum is a London restaurant named after the iconic character – but does not have a Michelin Star.
Michelin as we know them today
As one of the biggest names in tyres, Michelin is a globally recognised brand who have been providing bike, motorcycle and car tyres for road, off-road and track use building up a wealth of experience and expertise along the way. Every set of Michelin tyres produced is manufactured to the highest possible safety and quality standards, ensuring that every single customer (or racer) gets the very best tyres for their needs.
Michelin tyres are never far away from the top of the ratings when it comes to reviews and awards, as shown in the 2018 Evo awards where the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S performance tyre came out on top in a rigorous testing process that also included the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 and Dunlop SportMaxx RT2 tyres.
One of the brand’s most recent tyres, the Pilot Sport 4S was found to “deliver the steering feel, grip and instant response in the dry of a true performance tyre, and uniquely combines this with good performance in the wet.”
It is this standard of performance that has led Michelin to become one of the go-to brands for professional racing tyres. Used in the WRC, MotoGP and Formula E championships as well as the Le Mans 24 hours endurance race; Michelin are a firm favourite among riders, racers and teams because of the quality of tyres on offer.
Named as the official tyre supplier for MotoGP until 2023 and remain the official partner of the Formula E World Championship as the event enters its fifth year, developing their range of quality tyres with the help of the very best drivers and riders in the world and filtering this quality down to the general public.
The current range of Michelin Tyres
In fact, many of the latest range of Michelin tyres have been developed on the world’s racing tracks. All Michelin tyres are there or thereabouts when it comes to group tests, with the aforementioned range of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S performance tyres a prime example.
A best-in-class summer tyre that also offers exceptional grip in the wet, the Pilot Sport 4S offers sharper handling than the Michelin Pilot Sport 4, and is fitted as standard on a number of the world’s supercars including Mercedes AMG models and the Ferrari GTC4.
That isn’t to say that there is anything – at all – wrong with the range of Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres by the way. Also offering exceptional performance in the dry and wet conditions, it is also widely used as an OE tyre on a number of high performance cars including BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Porsche models; and the tread pattern has filtered down from the WRC and Formula E.
It has also been adapted for track day use with the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyre, and for use on SUV’s in the form of the Michelin Sport 4 SUV tyre with the larger sizes and tailored tread design for the bigger vehicles.
Standard equipment on many track-day specials, the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 is developed using expertise hard worn on the race track. The tyre has been homologated for road and comes packed with features designed to make it into a usable all-round tyre with a tread pattern designed to avoid aquaplaning. The track ready features include an incredibly sticky compound, and a tread/sidewall design which will give you almost instantaneous turn-in and unmatched control in corners.
For an all-year round tyre, they don’t come much better than the Michelin Cross Climate performance road tyre. Not only does it offer excellent grip in wet and dry conditions, the Michelin Cross Climate tyre is the world’s first summer tyre that performs to the same high standards in the winter making it every bit the all-season tyre it’s been designed as. The tyre has been designed to cope in snow and ice without affecting any of the summer performance, putting it right up there when it comes to the best winter tyres around – and a tyre that is almost made for the UK!