Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Michelin's iconic Bibendum (resembling the Pillsbury doughboy) was born in 1899 and became Logo of the Century in 2000. Today the second largest tyre manufacturer in the world, Michelin started as a small rubber factory founded by André and Edouard Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand in 1889. The legend says that the success came with an English cyclist stopping at the factory and asking to have a punctured Dunlop tyre repaired. Edouard Michelin, the creative brother, spent more than 3 hours trying to fix the tyre that was the first version of the pneumatic tyre invented by Dunlop in 1888. Edouard came with a more handy version, the removable pneumatic tyre, reducing the repair time of three hours plus a night to dry the glue, to 15 minutes.
That was the start of a success story sustained by number of innovations. The 52-employee company grew up with the 20th century to a huge multinational company that employs more than 120 000 persons globally, 31 000 in France and owns 80 manufacturing plants in 19 countries. The company headquarters is still in Clermont-Ferrand but in the last twenty years, the production activity has been nearly entirely moved abroad. The town of Clermont Ferrand's industrial history linked with the pneumatic industry came to an end and the town is changing its production towards other industrial activities, such as pharmaceutical industry, electronics or agribusiness, or towards service sector after having gone through a tough time of economic crisis and chronic unemployment issues. Michelin is also well known for its publishing activity. In 1900, the company launched a guide providing drivers with recommendations on good restaurants and good hotels. Le "Guide Michelin" ou "Guide Rouge" (Red Guide) has become a prestigious "traveler's bible" and the Holy Grail for ambitious chefs. Le Guide Michelin came under fire when the famous French chef Bernard Loiseau committed suicide after he was rumored to be in danger of losing one of his three stars.
As early as 1910, the company published road maps and detailed regional guides. In 1926, the first "Le Guide Vert", a touristic guide is published making Michelin a brand we almost can't do without on the road.
Cara- Tuesday


  1. And here I thought Bibendum was inspired by a glimpse someone had of me coming out of my third three star Michelin meal in as many days. Ahh, memories.

  2. And I thought it was "bib" as in "bibliophile" when it's actually "bib" as in "imbibe." There was a time in my life when I much preferred imbibing to reading, but that's over and done, now, which is not to say there aren't times I miss it.

    Maybe someday I'll do a blog about writing drunk as opposed to writing sober.

  3. Michelin road maps were used by both the Allies and Germans in WWII.

  4. Didn't know that Liz, thanks! Funny to think of Bibendum, the 'pneu' tire roly poly man as precursor to guides and fine dining.

  5. The green guides are my favorites for explaining the history and significance of attractions when traveling, despite their Francocentric bias. For instance, just last month we noted in Arezzo in the Basilica of San Francesco, the Guide Vert gave more space to the Frenchman who made the stained glass windows than it did to Pierro Della Francesca who painted the frescoes of the Legend of the True Cross, one of the greatest masterpieces of the Renaissance. This sort of thing always injects a little welcome humor into the proceedings!