The Michelin Man is one of the most iconic company mascots in the public consciousness, and Michelin’s 26 billion dollar yearly revenue makes it one of the biggest tire companies in the world. Over the 130 years since the firm was founded in France, its tires have grown in reputation and are now recognized across the globe.
The company’s trademark Michelin Man, nicknamed Bibendum, graces televisions on all seven continents. Just as well known is the company’s guidebook series, the Michelin Guide, which is the governing body of the coveted restaurant prize known as the Michelin Star. Along with Michelin’s presence in motor racing, it’s not a stretch to say that Michelin is one of the most culturally significant companies in the world.
- What Makes Michelin Different?
- Michelin Design Features
- Michelin Warranty Information
- A History of Michelin
- Michelin in the Tire Industry
- Michelin and Auto Racing
- Michelin Giving Back
- Michelin’s Best Selling Tires
- All Tire Models: Michelin Tires
What Makes Michelin Different?
Michelin, more than anything, is known for being at the cutting edge of consumer tire development. While the company is not as storied in auto racing as brands like Cooper and Pirelli, nevertheless with over 100 years of business, Michelin has built quite a reputation for getting the best technology possible into the hands of consumer drivers.
Michelin owns three main divisions: Uniroyal, BF Goodrich, and Michelin. Each division has a different market, and Michelin itself caters to premium automobiles. The company has a history of providing high-end products to upscale automakers, starting with mid-level brands like Volkswagen and Toyota, with product lines extending to supercar manufacturers like Porsche and Ferrari.
No matter what model you buy at Michelin, you know you’re getting a product that has years of heritage, development, and technology behind it. Almost all models are specifically approved for their vehicles by prestigious carmakers, so you can trust that any tire you buy is rigorously tested for your needs.
Along with creating the main innovation in the tire world in the last 100 years, the radial tire, Michelin continues to spend more than any other manufacturer on research and development to improve their products. This ensures that if you buy a Michelin tire, you’ll end up with a product that is using the cutting edge of all technology available. And with a customer-focused mindset, you can be sure that Michelin isn’t keeping the best technology at the racetrack.
When you buy a product from a premium brand like Michelin, part of what you’re purchasing is the heritage and legacy of the brand. With Michelin, this includes their reputation for innovation in the industry, their famed guidebooks, and their commitment to outstanding customer support.
Michelin Design Features
Michelin is an incredibly consumer-focused company. Although it sometimes invests in developing racing technology, all of their research and innovation is done with the end goal of providing a better product to the consumers that use Michelin tires every single day.
With their latest technologies, it is easy to see the company’s problem-solving DNA. The firm truly innovates on behalf of its customers, and this business model has served them well for over 100 years.
Michelin EverGrip Technology
A huge problem tire consumers face is the gradual degradation of tire performance. As tires wear out, so does the tire tread. Since tread is such an important part of a tire’s performance, braking and handling then start to deteriorate as a result. A study done by the independent Consumer Reports demonstrates that average braking distance can worsen by 6% when a tire begins to wear out.
To combat this, Michelin has developed a technology derived from racing conditions called EverGrip. EverGrip works to lower braking distances using two design features. Firstly, Michelin uses a proprietary high-traction rubber that doesn’t degrade over time. The rubber functions equally well, even when worn.
The second technology Michelin utilizes is a type of tread feature that incorporates hidden, geometrically-designed grooves that expand as the tire wears down. As you put more and more miles on your tire, it compensates for wear due to these gradually-expanding grooves that help with traction and water evacuation.
All of this adds up to incredible braking performance, both for new and worn tires. Independent studies verify that even worn Michelin tires typically stop faster than brand new competitor tires. If safety is a priority for you, Michelin tires are well worth considering.
Almost every driver has dealt with the inconvenience of a flat tire that leaves them stranded on the side of the road. What do you do? Call a friend? An expensive tow truck?
Since 1891, when Michelin patented its first invention, the company has found success by solving the problems of real people. In 2017, the company debuted SelfSeal Technology, which is designed to combat the most common sources of flat tires—nails and screws. It seals flat-causing punctures as big as one-quarter of an inch, and accomplishes this feat by utilizing a natural sealant that coats the inside of the tire.
Each tire comes from the factory with a layer of natural rubber sealant on its interior. When a tire is punctured, this sealant seeps into the hole and plugs the leak. It doesn’t affect fuel efficiency, and because the material is non-synthetic rubber, it is not damaging to the environment either. The puncture typically seals while driving and, often, users don’t even notice the tire self-sealing. This feature isn’t offered on all tires, though, so if you’re interested, make sure you see ‘SelfSeal’ in the name of whatever model you’re looking at.
Michelin Acoustic Technology
Drivers who often drive long distances at high speeds complain about road noise. At highway speeds, the interior of a car can be as loud as 80 decibels, which is nearly the same volume as a vacuum cleaner! Long exposure in the cabin of a car can certainly be annoying, but it can also damage your hearing.
While this problem can be addressed by insulating the cabin or modifying the suspension, the simplest way to deal with road noise is a new set of tires. Michelin Acoustic Technology helps reduce noise by dampening road vibrations. The innovation uses polyurethane foam in the cavity of the tire, which minimizes interior sound. Michelin reports that interior noise can be lessened by up to 20% using this technology. Over time, it could even save your hearing.
Michelin Warranty Information
Michelin has one of the best warranties in the tire business, and it goes far beyond just covering wear and tear. The company has a program called the Michelin Promise Plan that guarantees satisfaction with all of their products. The first component of this plan is an industry-topping 60-day satisfaction guarantee. After purchase (either online or offline), you have 60 days to return the product in exchange for a new one. Some competitors offer a shorter, full-refund option, but Michelin goes with a longer guarantee but only offers exchanges.
In the first 3 years of Michelin tire ownership, you’re automatically enrolled – for free – in Michelin’s roadside assistance program, which is incredibly comprehensive. Along with being available 24/7 to change your flat, the company also offers free towing, gas delivery, lockout service, and battery jump-start. All you need to sign up is a full set of Michelin tires.
The final component of their coverage is Michelin’s mileage guarantee. Although some Michelin winter tires have low mileage warranties of around 25,000 to 30,000 miles, most touring tires for passenger vehicles will have warranties of around 50,000 miles. In some cases, Michelin’s coverage goes all the way up to 80,000 miles. A full list of Michelin’s mileage coverage is available online here.
Although Michelin normally sells premium products at a higher price point, the higher prices allow them to, among other things, provide their extensive warranty service. The full details and conditions of the warranty policy are covered in depth in this handout from the company.
A History of Michelin
Michelin was founded in 1889 by Frenchman Edouard Michelin, who started the company initially as a rubber ball factory. One day, a cyclist rolled up to the factory with a flat tire and asked for assistance. In those days, tires were glued on to the rims of bike wheels, so the process was painstaking and labor-intensive. It took almost three hours to fix the flat.
Eduoard saw the opportunity to solve a problem and created the first detachable tire, which was later patented. Although these days nearly all tires can be removed from the wheel they sit on, this wasn’t always the case. Originally tires were glued onto wooden or iron wheels to stay in place. In 1891, Michelin had the original idea to make a rigid tire that, when inflated, would hook into the wheel itself and create a seal against the rim so that the tire could be inflated. As long as the tire was inflated, it was anchored in place. This advancement upset the tire world and today every single tire sold for automotive use is a ‘removable’ tire.
In 1891, that tire model won the world’s first major bike race, the Paris-Brest-Paris, which was over 750 miles long. In 1898, the Michelin Man was invented, and the mascot survives largely unchanged to this day.
As automobiles began to take over the world, Michelin followed. The company was lucky enough to be founded at a critical time in automotive history, and as more and more cars were sold, more and more tires were sold as well. In the 1920s, Michelin expanded its operations to Vietnam, where it began to operate enormous rubber plantations.
Michelin was the first company to develop the radial tire, which is now the most commonly used type of tire in the world. It first patented the technology in 1946. This type of tire had advantages for driving performance and fuel efficiency, so it was quickly adopted worldwide.
Initially only selling tires in Asia, Europe, and Africa, by the 1960s Michelin launched its first sales efforts in the United States. Due to its high-quality, innovative products, the company was able to grab a huge portion of market share, and the US grew to be its biggest audience. Shortly after, the company entered the new, high-speed off-road sport of rally racing, where their team won the world’s first championship.
In recent history, Michelin aggressively expanded by buying up other tire production companies, and it now owns companies like Goodrich and Uniroyal. It continues to participate in motorsports and develop tire technologies through racing. In the last 20 years, it has traded off the title as ‘biggest tire company in the world’ with the Japanese conglomerate Bridgestone.
The Michelin Star
In the early days of automobiles, Michelin began to publish a free guide for French motorists to make car ownership more attractive, easier, and glamorous. In the first edition of the guide, motorists were treated to maps, car repair information, and restaurant suggestions.
In 1931, Michelin first created the hierarchy for their now famed star-based restaurant-review system. The star system remains the same today, with three classes. Descriptions are taken from the original French:
- One Michelin Star: “a very good restaurant in its category.”
- Two Michelin Stars: “excellent cooking, worth a detour.”
- Three Michelin Stars: “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”
Although the descriptions of the award are modest, chefs spend their whole lives looking to earn a Michelin star. In the present day, there are only 137 three-Michelin-star restaurants in the world, located in 19 different countries.
Michelin in the Tire Industry
Michelin is a giant in the industry and the company has long used its enormous influence and development budget to bring products to market. Since the company was founded, it has gradually grown and expanded to the level of influence it holds today, owning multiple brands and product lines that have tires for every market segment.
In recent years, Michelin has performed a number of strategic acquisitions that have allowed it to develop new technologies and deliver its products to emerging markets. With each acquisition, Michelin acquires the technologies of the company it takes over, allowing them to develop their core tire offering further.
Early in the company’s history, Michelin purchased the car company Citroen. Michelin was the first company to collaborate closely with a vehicle manufacturer, and the relationship allowed the company to develop and refine technologies such as the radial tire, which initially was specifically designed for Citroen vehicles. Later, Michelin acquired Goodrich, which led to Michelin supplying tires for space shuttles. In recent years, Michelin acquired the company Camso, which has let them expand into heavy machinery markets.
Michelin and Auto Racing
Michelin has been a sponsor of rallies all over the world since the sport’s inception in 1973. Since then, Michelin-backed teams have accumulated 25 individual driver titles and 27 titles through sponsorships.
Michelin cites rally racing’s unique performance demands as the rationale for its perennial participation in the sport. Due to the multiple competition surfaces, intense requirements for handling, and the need for durability, Michelin views rally racing as the ideal test ground to develop and experiment with new products.
LeMans 24 hours
LeMans is the most famous French race in the world, and as a French company, Michelin pays careful attention to the event. In fact, a car using Michelin tires has won every single race at the historic course since 1998. Michelin credits this fact to the durable design of their tires, and teams using Michelin rubber historically make fewer pit stops, which allows for huge time savings. A tire stop takes about 30 seconds, and Michelin claims that their tires’ durability allows teams to skip around five pit stops per race.
Michelin has participated in motorcycle racing, although the company has sometimes prioritized the discipline less due to the sport’s waning popularity. The conglomerate has been a longtime sponsor of MotoGP, and in 2012 Michelin released an acclaimed motorcycle tire line. Some of Michelin’s innovations in grip and maneuverability for car tires were initially made on the motorcycle track.
Michelin Giving Back
A big part of Michelin’s success is its stellar reputation. The company is known for its worldwide efforts in supporting the communities it operates in. Michelin has a person-focused corporate social responsibility program, and it operates different organizations on several different continents to help work on the world’s biggest problems.
Teen Road Safety Initiative
As the number one killer of teens in the US, Michelin is dedicated to reducing driving deaths of young people. Over 10% of traffic accidents can be attributed to tire issues such as tread wear or poor tire pressure. To combat the problem, Michelin launched a campaign called ‘Beyond the Driving Test’ to help teach young and inexperienced drivers about proper tire safety and maintenance.
Michelin has delivered a curriculum, PSAs, and grant programs to teens all across the US with the goal of educating them on proper tire usage. Michelin is working towards the goal of all 50 states mandating education on tire safety issues to be included in teen driver’s education classes.
Michelin Challenge Bibendum
Michelin’s goal in all of their charitable efforts is to “make mobility safer, cleaner, more connected, more accessible, and more affordable.” You can see these values as early as the 1920s, when the first Michelin guide books were published for free to make driving more accessible to ordinary people.
Over 15 years ago, Michelin launched a project called the Michelin Challenge Bibendum, which is named after their mascot, the Michelin Man, who is known in France as Bibendum. The Michelin Challenge Bibendum is a think tank project designed to help mobility become more sustainable.
Since the think tank’s inception, it has grown remarkably and now has relationships with road users, factories, universities, energy companies, researchers, NGOs, and politicians. It is said to be the only organization in the world that brings together all transportation stakeholders at an international level. The think tank is hosted at a new location every year, and typically addresses issues relevant to that year’s location. The end goal is policy change, whether that be by governments, corporations, or other stakeholders.
Michelin’s Best Selling Tires
The Primacy line of tires, as well as being Michelin’s best-selling line, is the group of tires that will suit most American drivers. Some of these models have a bit more of a performance bent, but all of them are perfectly suited for daily driving. Each model emphasizes the characteristics that real drivers appreciate: traction, durability, comfort, and fuel efficiency.
- Primacy MXM 4: With a guaranteed 55,000 miles, the Primacy is the most practical tire in a family of already-practical tires. It comes stocked on premium sedans made by Buick, Mercedes, and Infiniti.
- Primacy 3: The Primacy 3, typically coming in at around $200 per tire, is on the more luxurious end of the Primacy line. It’s oriented at drivers of high-end sedans, and as such, prioritizes comfort and safety. It also comes with a fantastic 6-year warranty.
The Pilot Sport line is a series of high-performance tires targeted at typical road conditions. It’s not quite a race exclusive line, but it prioritizes performance over more practical attributes like fuel efficiency and tire longevity. Owners of high-performance vehicles will want to check out this range before other offerings.
- Pilot Sport 4S: The purest Michelin racing tire available for street-legal vehicles, the Pilot Sport 4s operates at peak performance both in the rain and when it’s dry.
- Pilot Sport Cup 2: Designed in collaboration with Mercedes, Ferrari, and Porsche, this tire is made of high-tech rubber, but still maintains a flavor of day-to-day use. Michelin claims a 50% lifespan improvement over other race-oriented models with this tire.
The Latitude Family of tires runs down the spectrum of light truck and SUV tires, ranging from all-season touring models to heavy-duty winter and snow models. Different tires have different approaches to tread design, traction, and fuel efficiency.
- Latitude Tour: With touring sensibilities adapted for the truck and SUV market, the Latitude Tour delivers high fuel efficiency and class-leading durability with a 65,000 mileage guarantee. For those doing highway driving, it offers great comfort and noise reduction.
- Latitude Sport: The Latitude Sport sits at a premium price, but delivers on its budget by offering excellent wet and dry traction. It’s vouched for by Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi, who all put this model on their high-end SUV offerings.
All Tire Models: Michelin Tires
Michelin shows the breadth of an industry leader in their lineup, selling more than 70 different tire models.
Summer Ultra-High Performance
Pilot Sport A/S 3 N-Spec
Pilot Sport A/S 3+ (H- or V-Speed Rated)
Pilot Sport A/S Plus N-Spec
Grand Touring Summer
Primacy 3 ZP
Grand Touring All-Season
Ice & Snow Tires
X-Ice Xi3 ZP