By Troy Siahaan
Founded in 1872 by Giovanni Battista Pirelli, the company we now know for its expansive range of tires got its humble beginnings in a different industry: telecomms. Back then several new technologies and industries were emerging, including energy and telecommunications. Throughout Europe, kilometers upon kilometers of power cables and phone lines were being put into the ground and into the ocean. All of them needed protection. Enter Pirelli and his expertise in another emerging field: rubber. Pirelli founded a limited partnership, “G.B. Pirelli & C.”, in Milan to produce elastic rubber items – primarily sheathing to protect all these wires buried in the ground. According to Pirelli’s corporate history website, by 1873, only a year after its foundation, Pirelli already had a plant in Milan. Production of carriage bands (they weren’t exactly tires) started in 1885, and by 1894 the first velocipede tire was born.
Giovanni Battista Pirelli
Over the course of the next 50 years, Pirelli grew quickly, opening plants all across the globe while also participating in motorsports both on two wheels and four. By the 1920s, a reorganization of the Pirelli group resulted in the Società Italiana Pirelli, the first Italian group traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Little did anyone know that the Great Depression was looming around the bend…
Through it all, Pirelli diversified its reach immensely. From clothing to sanitary products, if something could be made from rubber, Pirelli was finding a way to be a part of that industry. As far as tires were concerned, the automotive sector dominated the company’s focus, with 1949 marking the start of the company’s involvement developing its first radial car tire, the Cinturato. You’d have to fast-forward to the 1980s before Pirelli developed a radial motorcycle tire, and even then, it was developed …read more