B arry's T ire Tech

This is a series of articles on the technical aspects of tires, their care and usage.

My primary purpose in these articles is to help people understand tires and thereby reduce the risks we all face every day.

..........and since tires is just about the only thing I know about..........

Please drop me a note if you have a topic you want to see:


Tire Brands:

In this page I am going talk about how tire brands work. I am not going to talk about quality or compare tire brands in any way.

It's really important to realize that for every statement I make below, there are exceptions - so many in fact, I may not remember to point them all out. Be forewarned!

Editorial Comment: The tire business has become global in nature, mostly due to the low shipping costs of containers. As a result, it is not uncommon to find tires of the same brand produced in a wide variety of countries.

The way this affects tire brands is profound. Some brands are preferred in some regions and disfavored in others. But it also means that the same tire can be produced for one region, and sent to another region for only the cost of shipping less setup costs. It's also a good way to get rid of excess inventory.

I am going to start in a kind of odd place:

Private Brands:

These are brands that are owned by tire distributors or tire dealers with a lot of stores. These folks have the tires manufactured for them. That means they decide what the specs are - sort of.

The tire manufacturers obviously have a say in what they produce - and, of course, there are technical limitations. But there are also things that the manufacturers aren't going to allow to take place - like making a super premium tire with all the bells and whistles in a private brand.

What usually happens is that the tire manufacturer will have a line of tires they can use for private brands.

Sometimes they will just rebrand an existing mold. Other times they will create a completely different looking tire that takes the same green tire as an existing line.

  • For those who don't know, tire manufacturers refer to the fully assembled, but uncured tire as "green". See several to the left. I don't know why they call them this. They can put green tires in any compatible mold, so it's possible for there to be many, many different looking molds - and therefore, many different looking tires. But underneath, they are all the same!

But other times, there will be several brands out of the same exact mold - meaning the tires are identical except for the name on the side. They do this by having an interchangeable plate with different names. Needless to say, everyone involved makes sure that these aren't sold in the same region.

Then there's the case where a completely unique tire line will be developed. This is especially true for brands that are specialized for a particular use - such as off roading.

Obscure Brands:

I suppose I can't avoid the elephant in the room - brands with unusual names, especially those from China.

For some reason, many Chinese tire manufacturers have entered the US market with brands that have some English name instead of a name based on the name of the company. Some of these tires do not perform very well and the brands get a tarnished reputation. After that happens, the company makes a new brand and repeats the cycle. As a consumer, I find this disturbing!

I think the first phase is over - where the tires don't perform well - and the 2nd phase is in process (This is being written in the fall of 2023.) - where a new (improved) brand is being marketed. We will see how this works out.

To be fair, many tire manufacturers started this way. The Japanese and Koreans come to mind. Both of these currently have good reputations and I expect the Chinese to eventually get there. (In my opinion, they are making progress faster than their predecessors.)

Further I expect this cycle to repeat itself with other regions: India, Southeast Asia, Africa, etc.

Name Brands:

Or at least that is what I am calling them.

These are brands that have the same name as the company. Usually these are the lead brand - and for large manufacturers, usually the premium brand.

To the right is one of my favorite advertisements for tires. The Fisk Rubber Company produced tires from 1900 to 1934. In 1940, they were purchased by US Rubber, later known as Uniroyal. I suppose Michelin now has rights to the name.

In-house Brands:

This is the most interesting part. These are brands owned by the tire manufacturer. There isn't a consistent pattern here.

Some in-house brands are positioned as - say - value brands - less expensive, but solidly engineered tires without the bells and whistles.

Some are used the same way as private brands.

And some are regional - because the brand is familiar in that region. These may or may not be clones of other tires.

Here's a list of them: Wikipedia: List of Tire Companies

Around Labor Day, every year, Tire Business, a newspaper covering the tire industry, publishes statistics on tire manufacturers around the world. Included is a rank order of the top 75. I've posted the top 6.

Rank Company Headquartered in Sales in Billions of US Dollars
1 Group Michelin France $ 28.3
2 Bridgestone Japan $ 26.6
3 Goodyear USA $ 17.9
4 Continental AG Germany $ 12.4
5 Sumitomo Japan $ 7.2
6 Pirelli Italy $ 7.0

Here's a partial copy of the list, up to #31: Rank Order - Partial

If you want the full version, you'll have to order it - $125.00 - here!

Group Michelin

In the past, the top 3 companies have each taken a turn at the top, but recent history has been as seen above with Michelin on top.

The Michelin brand is well respected by the industry and some consider them to be the quality leader. Unlike the past where their tire designs were conservative (boring, even!), they've recently had some more exciting offerings.

To the right is the company mascot, Mr. Bib (short for bibendum, which comes from the Latin phrase "Nunc est bibendum!" meaning, "It's time to drink!")

Michelin not only builds their tires differently than the rest of the industry, but they have introduced some unusual innovations, including some that just didn't work out - such as TRX and PAX.

Wikipedia: Michelin TRX

Wikipedia: Michelin PAX System

Michelin has 2 notable in-house brands: Goodrich and Uniroyal. Those were acquired in 1989 as the merged Uniroyal/Goodrich company. (Please note that Continental owns the Uniroyal brand in Europe, which creates a bit of confusion.)

But unlike Michelin tires, Goodrich and Uniroyal tires are much more conventional and produced in much the same way other tire manufacturers build tires.


In the past, Bridgestone has surpassed Michelin for the top spot. They are a force to be reckoned with.

What I find interesting is that in the US, the Bridgestone brand is mostly an OE brand. It's not that Bridgestone branded tires aren't sold, but that there is another brand they own that dominates the US market.

And that brand is Firestone, which they purchased in 1988. Firestone still has a big presence in Akron, Ohio - offices and labs - even though Bridgestone has its North American headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee.

Further, they have a chain of Firestone branded retail shops throughout the US. (Please note: Many are franchises.)

The Firestone brand is so visible in the US likely because of Firestone's previous relationship with the Ford Motor Company. That relationship was badly damaged in 2000, over a dispute about a huge tire recall. I go into the technical details here:

Barry's Tire Tech: The Ford/Firestone Controversy

Here's Wikipedia's article on the subject:

Wikipedia: Firestone and Ford tire controversy


Goodyear is named after the inventor of vulcanization of rubber, Charles Goodyear, but has no other connection to the man.

When Goodyear purchased Cooper in 2021, Goodyear became the only major US based tire manufacturer. It is unclear as of the writing of this webpage (Fall, 2023) how Cooper and all its plants and facilities are going to be integrated.

Another interesting aspect is that since 1999, in the US and several other countries, Goodyear operates the Dunlop brand as a joint venture with Sumitomo.

The Kelly brand of tires has been a Goodyear in-house brand since 1935.

Update: Dec, 2023: Goodyear has announced that they intend to sell the Dunlop brand. The news says they own the rights to the brand name in North America and Europe. Apparently the statement I made above about a joint venture with Sumitomo was dated and incomplete.

Continental AG

Starting in 2001, Continental has been acquiring automotive part suppliers - to the point where tires is only 30% of their business at the corporate level.

Continental has several regional in-house brands.

In the US, it's General. In Europe, it's Uniroyal. (The Uniroyal brand is owned by Michelin everywhere else.)

Also in different parts of Europe, it's Semperit and Barum.

Interestingly, since 2012, they own the rights to the Dunlop brand in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.


This is the highest ranking tire manufacturer who most people don't know the name of. But they do know the name of one of their brands - Dunlop. The Dunlop brand is originally British, but John Boyd Dunlop, a Scotsman living in Ireland, who made major improvements in pneumatic tires, left the company before his name was used on products. The European operations were sold in 1983, and went through a series of owners before Sumitomo became involved.

But the Dunlop brand isn't very coherent because Sumitomo doesn't have control of the brand in certain parts of the world. For example, the Dunlop brand is a joint venture with Goodyear in North America. Goodyear owns the European, Australian, and New Zealand operations.

In Malayasia, Singapore, and Brunei, Continental owns the brand.

But Sumitomo operates the Dunlop brand in the rest of the world.

Update: Dec, 2023: Goodyear has announced that they intend to sell the Dunlop brand. The news says they own the rights to the brand name in North America and Europe. Apparently the statement I made above about a joint venture with Sumitomo was dated and incomplete. I don't know what the situation is in Australia and New Zealand.


They are best known for supplying tires to Formula 1.

What is not so well known is that they are owned by ChemChina, a Chinese state owned chemical company.

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