The Pirelli Tyre Story
The history of Pirelli coincides with the history of the tyre industry. Founded in Milan in 1872, Pirelli & C (the original name of the company founded by Giovanni Battista Pirelli, a 24-year-old engineer) was initially a factory producing rubber articles. But the process of product diversification began immediately, introducing those elements of innovation and quality that still characterise the company today.
So Pirelli started to produce insulated wire for telegraphy, submarine telegraph cables and, eventually, the first bicycle tyre. The first car tyre, the "Ercole" was made in 1901. With the new century came the first sporting victories (the Peking-Paris race, in 1907) and the process of international expansion began, with the opening of new plants in Spain (1902), Britain (1914) and Argentina (1917).
In the 1920s Pirelli developed the innovative Cord technology, and its tyres started to be used in automobile races, marking the start of a journey that has led to the present day, crowned by many victories in Formula 1, Rally, Superbike and other championships, as well as in the famous Mille Miglia. It is in precisely this period that Pirelli started production of the first range of cables with innovative oil insulation.
The birth of the elongated P in 1908, marked the start of a history of excellence and industrial innovation in both the tyre and the cable industries. At the start of the 1950s, Pirelli developed the revolutionary "Cinturato", or radial tyre (which has in fact been recently resurrected with avant-garde and eco-compatible solutions), an innovative product for sports use, a product that could for the first time guarantee great road-holding when cornering, and at high speeds. In the meantime, foreign expansion continued, with the purchase of Germany's Veith Gummmiwerke in the tyre sector, and the start-up of cable manufacturing plants in Australia and Peru. In the 1960s, in Italy, the company opened plants in Settimo Torinese for car tyres, in Villafranca Tirrena (Messina) for motorbike tyres, and in Giovinazzo (Bari) for plastic cables.
The start of the new Millennium saw some profound changes in the tyre industry and beyond. The group patented and introduced the new MIRS production processed for the automated manufacture of high performance tyres. And while the Pirelli MIRS miniplants spread through Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, at the Milano-Bicocca plant the futuristic automated mixing room, the CCM (Continuous Compound Mixing) started operations. In the same period, the photonics and fibre optics business of the group was enhanced by the creation of Pirelli Labs, a development engine for new technologies and the study of materials, while the property sector saw Pirelli Real Estate listed on the Milan stock exchange in 2002, after a decade of strong growth that saw it assume leadership of the Italian property market.
In line with its strategy of focusing on the tyre sector, as outlined in the 2009-2011 industrial plan, Pirelli proceeded with the disposal of non-strategic activities (Telecom Italia, Alcatel-Lucent Submarine, Oclaro, Pirelli Broadband Solutions) and concluded the separation from the group of Pirelli Real Estate, transforming itself into a 'pure Tyre company' (98% of Pirelli & C revenues in 2010 are coming from tyres) . Alongside the tyre activities, the company is also pursuing the Pzero fashion and high-tech project and in line with Pirell's 'green performance' strategy, the activities of Pirelli Eco Technology and Pirelli Ambiente, respectively operating in emission control technology and the energy and environment areas.
You can visit the Pirelli South Africa website for more information on motorcycle tyres: www.pirelli.com/tyres/en-za/motorcycle/homepage.