What Is Behind the Names of the Famous Tyre Brands?

  • Author: OPONEO.IE

What are the meanings of the famous tyre brands names? From a marketing point of view, they are worth a fortune and for each of the companies, they are a priceless capital in which is included their reputation, pedigree, history and traditions.

Michelin, Pirelli and Dunlop - Names of the Founders

If the name of its founder survived, we can be sure that the name of the company we are dealing with is a brand with near or over a century-old history. One hundred and more years ago the industrial initiatives, not only in the tyre industry (or more broadly – rubber industry), had, in its dawn, more of an individual character. They were quite often private enterprises of outstanding individuals. Therefore, looking at the largest company leaders producing tyres today: French Michelin is the enterprise of two brothers: Andre and Edouard Michelin (note that they took over the company Michelin et Cie, which was created by their grandfather in 1832), Italian Pirelli was founded by Giovanni Battista Pirelli, the Japanese Bridgestone – by Shojiro Ishibashi. The last case is unique in this category: Ishibashi, thinking about international business, decided that he will need a more universal sounding name. Therefore, he literally translated his name to the English language - ishibashi means "stone bridge". Bridgestone was created by swapping these two words.
Behind BFGoodrich, stands the character of Benjamin Franklin Goodrich, the company's founder from as far back as the nineteenth century. This was when the automobile and tyre industry, in the form we know today, were the sound of the distant future. Behind the Firestone brand, we can find the famous American industry pioneer, Henry Firestone. The brand Kelly - another pioneer in this industry, Edwin S. Kelly and the Cooper brand - Ira J. Cooper. The German Metzeler, one of the motorcycle tyres leader, was christened its name after Robert Friedrich Metzeler. Finally, Dunlop commemorates one of the greatest innovators in the history of the tyres sector - Scotsman John Boyd Dunlop.

Michelin brothers

Michelin brothers

Kleber and Goodyear - the Brands’ Patrons 


As for the companies created in the second half of the twentieth century, there are exceptions regarding the compatibility of the names and founders such as the Mickey Thompson brand. The initiative was authored by Mickey Thompson, an American race car driver. Also Marangoni, the Italian brand founded by Mario Marangoni. Whereas it maybe a bit confusing, at least at first glance, the origin of companies such as Goodyear, Kleber and Barum.

Let’s start with the Goodyear Brand. The American giant was not founded by Charles Goodyear, the father of vulcanizing rubber because he died 40 years before the company that still holds his name was created. Its founder, Frank Seiberling used the character of an underrated inventor, deftly weaving his achievements in the history of the company. The next is French Kleber, to which the name was "lent" by Jean-Baptiste Kleber, a commander in the Great Revolution and an associate of Napoleon. Kleber did not have much in common with tyres as he died in 1800.

When the company known today as Kleber, in 1945 trading under the name of Colombes-Goodrich, was located in Paris, its first location was on Kleber Avenue. So the French general, as it was "indirectly", became the patron of the tyre brand. And finally, the third example - Barum. In the name of the Czech company which was formed through the merger of three other entities in 1945: Bata, Rubena and Mitas, survived the first two letters of the name of one of the most famous European industrialists of the twentieth century. It is Thomas Bata, today more commonly known thanks to the footwear brand.

Charles Goodyear

Charles Goodyear was not the founder of the brand of the same name.

Apollo, Achilles, Hercules - Gods and Heroes

We mentioned the patrons of tyre brands such as Goodyear and Kleber. If we look closer at the historic or fictitious characters, whose names were given to the companies in the tyre market, it turns out that there are quite a large group of well-known mythology heroes, mainly Greek or Roman. Interestingly, they are the most popular among Asian companies, trying to break into the European market.

The Indonesian company Achilles refers to the Greek hero and unparalleled warrior of the Trojan War. The Chinese brand Aeolus chose the ruler of the winds, son of Poseidon, residing on one of the Aeolian Islands. Thanks to whom, Odysseus could safely sail through the seas. It is also not hard to recognise which of the mythical characters is the patron of the Indian company Apollo. Mythical Apollo, son of Zeus and Leto, was considered the god of beauty, light, music, life, death, truth and order. He was also a patron of art and poetry and muses guide.

The Fenix brand, founded in Luxembourg, producing in Indonesia, is named after the legendary bird, a symbol of the sun and the ever-reviving life. The mythical Phoenix was known to all ancient writers and according to various legends, he flew from Saudi or India to Egypt every 500 years, where he burned and reborn from the ashes. Another famous hero was used by the American company Hercules. In Greek mythology, Hercules promised Atlas to hold the sky for him if Atlas would bring him the golden apples. What makes this story interesting is that the tyre brand Hercules in the early years ... also worked with Atlas. More precisely - the Atlas Rubber company.

Hercules logo

Many brands of tyres took its name from the mythological characters.

Vikings - Warriors, but also Craftsmen

In the first part of our elaboration, we mentioned the legendary industrialists who gave their names to brands such as Michelin, Pirelli and Dunlop. There were those who in their companies reached for famous patrons - from the rubber industry (Goodyear), the history of their own country (Kleber), but also mythical characters from the Greek tradition, examples of which are brands such as Apollo, Achilles and Hercules. Complementing this topic, it is worth mentioning that the Belgian company Deldo (by the way, the name is an acronym constructed from the names of the founders: Jos Delcroix and Paula Donkers) has two private brands which names link to Roman mythology in its portfolio. The brand Fortuna picked the goddess of the same name, which directs human destinies. Interestingly, her image was often portrayed with the wheel, which helps in interpreting her as the patron of the tyre manufacturer . An even more appropriate choice was to use Minerva to name the first of the brands belonging to the Deldo company. Minerva, the goddess worshiped by craftsmen, artists and doctors, while in the more modern times, she is eagerly used as a symbol of many industries. One of these examples was Minerva cars, the luxury Belgian limousines, which at the turn of the 19th and 20th century even competed with Rolls Royce. The tyre Brand Minerva refers to both the Roman goddess, as well as the legendary Belgian automotive brand.

The Czech Mitas brand is even more complicated when it comes to mythological threads hidden in the name. The first syllable is inherited from the  Michelin company, which before the war, formed the foundation of a later independent company in Prague’s Strasnice. The second part "-tas" was inherited from the company Veritas, bought by the Czech structures of Michelin. Veritas is indeed the Roman personification of truth. 

There are also interesting circumstances related to the patron of the Norwegian brand, Viking. Although the Vikings for the rest of the world are a synonym for the fearless warriors (like the Viking from their brand logo), the Norwegian company accentuates other qualities of their ancestors, especially the fact that they were skilful and handy craftsmen.

Debica factory

Debica took its name from the town in which it’s originated.

 

Fulda, Gislaved, Debica - the Tyre Geography

In the names of many tyre brands, connections with the city, region or country from which they originate can be found. The choices are various. The British brand Avon was named after the river Avon, on the banks of which a cloth mill known as Avon Mill was based. This was later bought in 1885 by the creators of today's tyre brand Avon: Messrs E.G. Browne and J.C. Margetson. The Polish brand Dębica, inherited the name of the town where 80 years ago, one of the largest industrial investments of the Second Polish Republic was opened: the Tyre Factory, part of the Central Industrial District. The German brand Fulda was christened the same as the town near Frankfurt in which it originated. The town was known mainly for its baroque architecture. The Swedish company Gislaved - was named after the town in southern Sweden, where the first factory of the brothers Carl and Wilhelm Gislow was founded This is now part of the German consortium, Continental.

Similarly, from a town in Eastern Germany, near the Czech Republic border, the Heidenau brand took their name. The company was operating for many years in East Germany. The pride of the town Nokia in southern Finland is the brand Nokian , one of the most famous, iconic even, when it comes to winter tyres. Nokian is an adjective indicating that the company comes from the Nokia town (full name Nokian Renkaat Oyj). Whereas the company Yokohama, copied its name partly from the city where it was founded (Yokohama), and partly also from the company that created it - Yokohama Cable Manufacturing.

Hankook factory

Hankook comes from South Korea and its name comes precisely from that country.

Hankook - Simply "South Korea"

The towns or cities are not the only location references when it comes to names of tyre companies. Some geographical links are less obvious. For example, the Chinese brand’s name - Westlake, is derived from the main tourist attractions of the city Hangzhou, the West Lake. In this city, the Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Company, the owner of Westlake Tyres, was created. The Swiss brand Maloya owes its name to Maloia – a famous Alpine pass, located close to the borders of Switzerland and Italy. Vredestein – this was what a farm was called in Loosduinen. This was bought by Emile Louis Constant Schiff in 1909 where he started the production of rubber. The Dutch brand today still refers to this little-known episode from it’s over a century-old history.

Sava - the Slovenian brand, took its name from the second largest river after the Danube River on the Balkans, flowing among others, through Slovenia. The Hankook brand  in Korean language simply means "South Korea", the country in which the company was founded and have been operating since the beginning.

In an original way, the name of Hoosier emphasises local patriotism. The American brand, known for its excellent racing tyres was created by the couple, Robert and Joyce Newton from Indiana. "Hoosier" is the official demonym for a resident of this state, as a Californian is a resident of California and a Texan is a resident of Texas.

History of Hoosier

"Hoosier" means a resident of the U.S. state of Indiana.

Acceleration, Speed, Progress

Characteristically, some older brands in the global tyres market often wield, the names of the creators of their success in its signboards (this applies to many other fields of the industry; in automotive analogically, we have such examples as Ford, Citroen, Renault and Toyota), though among the many younger players, the names are based on a slogan or a play on words that attract the attention of customers.

Most often we are dealing with English expressions, therefore more versatile and easier to understand by a wider audience.  As such, the Chinese brand’s name Pace can be a synonym for speed or "pace car" is an American expression for the safety car in sports racing. The Indonesian brand’s name Accelera noticeably refers to the word "acceleration". While the name of the Korean company Nexen is the abbreviation of its motto: "Next Century Tires".

Some manufacturers raise the bar even higher when it comes to the message contained in its company's sign. The Chinese brand’s name Wanli, in Chinese, means "kilometer". The Japanese brand Shinko was christened with the word "shinkō ", which in their language means "progress". The company name Sonar comes from the Chinese expression " Sù nài lúntāi" which literally translates to "speed-resistant tyres". Another Chinese brand - Linglong holds a name, which in Mandarin, means epithets such as "wise," "excellent," but also "fast".

Tigar factory

"Tigar" simply means "tiger".

Swallow vs. Tiger

The origin of the German bicycle tyres brand Schwalbe is interesting. Ralf Bohle, head of the family business, which among other things was importing tyres for two-wheelers from Asia, was unhappy with its quality. Bohle bought the Korean brand Swallow Tyres. Bohle initially kept the name, but in the eighties thought that it would be better to replace it with one that will express the character of the family business in Germany better. And so the English word "swallow" was superseded by the "Schwalbe" which is still a swallow but expressed in the language of Goethe. A much more dangerous animal appears in the logo and the name of the Serbian brand Tigar, belonging to the Michelin group."Tigar" is simply "tiger".

The sign of the Firenza brand, created by the Singaporean company Stamford Tyres may be a little confusing, especially for customers in Italy. Firenze is the Italian name of Florence. For the originators of the name Firenza, it was about a good sound and was associated with the emotions that accompany driving a car. Does the thought of Italian curvy roads not fit into this like a glove? For those who are less familiar with sunny Italy’s geography, the word "fire" may be catchier on the eye. From related to the Italian language Latin comes the of the Austrian brand’s name Semperit. It is the submission of the phrase "semper it", which translates to "always running" or "always going ".

When it comes to an original genesis of a name, the Portuguese brand Mabor (belonging to the German company Continental) should not be forgotten. Hence, the 80-year-old firm, founded by the well-known Portuguese industrialist, banker and the Count of Coimbra of an interesting name - Dr. Julio Anahori de Quental Calheiros was christened in honour of his wife, Maria Borges. Mabor are the first syllables of her name.

Speaking of long traditions, it’s hard not to mention the Japanese company Sumitomo, whose name refers to a centuries-old lineage of the local industrialists. In this case, the tradition inherited by the tyre brand goes back to 1630 when ex-samurai Masatomo Sumitomo founded a drugs and books shop in Kyoto. His brother – Riemon Soga was on the other hand, a master metallurgy and developed an innovative method of copper smelting, which gave the family Sumitomo position and wealth for years to come.

Ceat rye

CEAT is an acronym for Cavi Electrici Affinia Torino - Electrical Cables and Related Products from Turin.

What is Behind the Abbreviations of the Brands’ Names?

And the abbreviations, which a fair share of well-known brands in the tyre market are named with? Indian Ceat is really C.E.A.T. - Cavi Electrici Affinia Torino, which are Electrical Cables and Related Products from Turin. From Turin? Yes, from Turin, as the company's founder, Dr. Virginio Bruni Tedeschi, before moving its operations to the Indian Subcontinent, worked for two decades, successfully indeed, in Italy. Another Indian tycoon, the company MRF is an abbreviation of Madras Rubber Factory.

Also from India, originates the brand BKT, specialising in specific tyres such as agricultural, industrial, all machines and vehicles used in mining, forestry and construction. BKT stands for Balkrishna Tyres. Behind the three letters of BCT hides the Chinese brand name Beijing Capital Tyres, part of the Beijing Capital Group. The two letters of the Indonesian GT Radial is an abbreviation of "Gajah Tunggal ', a phrase meaning "an angry elephant". While the Japanese bicycle and motorcycle tyres brand IRC, is really Inoue Rubber Company. The first word is the name of one of the founders of the company, Kaoru Inoue.

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