Founded in the early 20th century by brothers André and Edouard, almost 100 years later, the Michelin Manufacturer has become the world leader in tires. An industrial adventure that has marked history and is now heading into new areas
It all started in 1889, when the two brothers André and Edouard Michelin bought a small rubber and agricultural equipment company on the verge of bankruptcy. In what has become the headquarters of a multinational, the plane tree planted at that time is a symbol of duration and attachment to Clermont-Ferrand and Puy-de-Dôme. During one of the last general assemblies in which he participated, François Michelin declared from the rostrum: “My grandfather told me: with men like that, we can do great things. Well, here we are! Clermont’s Auvergne roots have spread all over the world! “
On display at the Michelin Adventure, the museum that traces the history of this industrial saga, a bicycle tire figures prominently. “It’s very symbolic” explains Stéphane Nicolas, the heritage manager “because it is the first product that Michelin will make in the field of tires. In 1889, when the Michelin brothers take over this small company, they will realize that the bicycle is very popular and they are going to want to improve the tire to make it easier and faster to repair. With this innovation, anyone anywhere will be able to do it. “
Innovation and competition
“André then said to Edouard:” now we have to make him known “and they will embark on the Paris-Brest-Paris race, 1200 kilometers round trip, convincing Charles Terront to run with this removable tire. race, André Michelin is betting on victory and has urgently printed leaflets to promote this removable tire “. He will distribute them at the finish line as Terront, who is presented today as the first French cycling star, wins by 8 hours ahead of the second.
“Innovation and the constant search for progress for the customer was the obsession of the founders of the company. It was able to adapt during two world wars to make other products such as Breguet planes” explains Yves Chapot, administrative and financial director of the group. A culture widely shared by engineers, the invention of the 2 horses by Pierre Boulanger is an example of this which has also experienced worldwide distribution.
Michelin is both mastery of innovation and advertising art
Bibendum, elected best logo of the century in 2000, is the standard bearer of all these objects invented to make life easier for the traveler: maps, guides, signposts… with a modernity that may surprise us today: “In the guide of 1902, we mention the oil depots but also the places where we can charge the batteries for electric cars “explains Stéphane Nicolas. Engineer Camille Jenatzy’s Jamais-Contente, the first car to exceed 100 kilometers and fitted with 4 Michelin tires review, held much hope.
“The Michelin brothers always put themselves in the customer’s shoes, trying to imagine what the customer’s need will be and how we will make their life easier. More kilometers, less energy spent, easier repairs, a map more readable, a guide that selects the right addresses “these are some of the keys to success according to Stéphane Nicolas.
A company and its city
In the 1970s, international development with the radial tire will allow the company to go from 10th to number one in the world and have up to 130,000 employees.
In Clermont-Ferrand, the workforce rose to 28,000 people. But today there are a little less than 10,000 in the factories, at the headquarters or at the Ladoux research center. After the tragic disappearance of Edouard and then François Michelin, the family is no longer at the helm of the company. “In the minds of Clermontois that changes a lot of things. I think that they only aspire to one thing, it is for a Michelin to come again to the management of the company” says the journalist Pierre- Gabriel Gonzalez. “There is a real family love relationship that remains with the Michelin family. We saw it with the death of Edouard and François Michelin. There is a relationship that remains very strong with a company where thousands of Clermont residents have worked, and very few say they are unhappy “.
“The two Michelin brothers invented mobility as it is expressed today, they invented the road …” believes Pierre-Gabriel Gonzalez. “At the time we left the great royal roads, the railroad had revolutionized transport, the automobile had done it again at the beginning of the 20th century. When the horse has disappeared, the automobile has imposed itself thanks to the tire “.
With Florent Menegaux at its head, the group has just taken a new strategic turn: in 2030 tire sales will only constitute 70% of turnover, hydrogen mobility, the medical sector or 3 D printing will be the new growth levers. 132 years after its creation, Michelin is still preparing for the mobility of tomorrow. “Michelin is a company that wants to be very sustainable in the future, that means a better distribution of our objectives” explains Yves Chapot for whom “20 to 30% of our turnover would be achieved outside of tires, c ‘is a way of deploying Michelin’s know-how outside of tires. To decarbonize mobility, electrification is a must. We can use either the battery or a fuel cell. We believe in hydrogen , especially for heavy loads, heavy goods vehicles and buses and over long distances “.