General Tire is Born – Founded on September 29, 1915, General Tire began as an outgrowth of the Western Tire & Rubber Company. William F. O’Neil (“W.O”) and his partner, Winfred E. Fouse, were two young businessmen from Akron, Ohio who knew that if they built a quality product…the sales would come.
When O’Neil and Fouse entered the tire business, there were more than 300 companies making tires. O’Neil made the decision to bypass the original equipment (OE) market and focus on a premium replacement tire. The oversized General Jumbo was born and additionally, the duo focused on pneumatic truck tires. It wasn’t long before the company formed a team of devoted independent dealers who were tenacious, aggressive and business savvy. It was this group who positioned the General brand as the unquestioned premium tire producer in the field.
In the mid-1920’s, General Tire’s engineering team revolutionized the tire manufacturing industry when they invented the low-pressure General Balloon Jumbo’s. Requiring only 12 pounds of air pressure, the Balloon Jumbos were the first of several new ideas including the blowout-proof Dual Balloon, Dual 8, Dual 10, Squeegee, and Dual 90. It was this kind of innovation and technology that continued to position the General brand as one of the industry’s best.
Focus on Truck Tires – In 1928 General Tire established themselves as a major player in the truck tire manufacturing game with the invention of the rubber flaps for truck tires. Then in 1931, General’s team of ambitious engineers created a complete line of low pressure truck tire balloons. Two big steps in the evolution of the truck tire. An agreement in 1934 placed General Tire on International Harvester’s approved OE list bolstering the company’s growing truck tire business. A few years later, in 1937, General Tire was on the OE list of all major truck manufacturers. These marquee moments opened the door for the ambitious General Tire dealers in the replacement and retreading sales segments.
Growth Spurt – General Tire went International in 1930 when they incorporated in Mexico with a wholly owned subsidiary, The General Tire & Rubber Company, S.A., of Mexico. This would be where the company’s distinctive International business would grow. The following year, General Tire acquired a 50-percent interest in Aldora Mills, a tire fabric manufacturing operation out of Barnesville, GA. And by 1937, full ownership of the factory signaled the expansion of General Tire’s domestic tire investment necessitated by an astonishing increase in vehicle registration across the US.
By the mid-1940’s, the U.S. faced a critical tire shortage due to World War II. General Tire, along with other manufacturers, agreed to help and selected Waco, TX as the site for its second U.S. facility. In what was the industry’s most modern plant, tire production began in November of 1944. Entry into the passenger car OE market in 1955, first as a General Motor’s supplier and later for other major automobile manufacturers, presented a critical need for more modern and efficient plants. For quality assurance, the world’s largest tire test track was built in Uvalde, Texas in 1959 followed by the addition of a third domestic plant in 1960 in Mayfield, KY.
General Tire’s fourth and fifth plants were added in 1967. A giant facility in Bryan, OH as well as an automobile and truck tire facility in Charlotte, NC. Finally, in 1973, General Tire’s sixth plant began operations in Mt. Vernon, IL with full radial tire production capabilities. Following this wave of plant openings, General Tire closed the doors to its original, and obsolete, plant in Akron, OH in 1983. Three years later brought the closure of the Waco, TX facility in 1986.
Continued Innovation – As the years progressed so did technology, and General Tire’s team of scientists were at the forefront of the tire industry. In 1943 they solved a 40-year industry problem with the discovery of the carbon black latex-mixing masterbatch principle. The team demonstrated their worth again in 1949 with the invention of oil-extended rubber – a synthetic rubber tenstrike which was patented in 1960. Their Gen-Tac adhesive was the answer for tire cord, and they were awarded patents for Nygen tire fabric, radial tire building machines, and a method (and machine) for improving performance characteristics of pneumatic tires.
In addition to its growth in the tire business, General Tire branched out into businesses that included aerospace and defenses, entertainment and broadcasting, chemicals/plastics, and industrial products.
Evolution – The shareholders of General Tire & Rubber Company proposed a change of names to GenCorp and the establishment of GenCorp Inc. as the parent holding company. On March 29, 1984 this proposal went into effect and a subsequent restructuring of the company exited the tire business by divesting General Tire. In early 1987 Continental AG of Hanover, Germany, expressed an interest in purchasing General Tire and on October 30, 1987 the sale of General Tire to Continental AG from GenCorp was finalized.
Who We Are Today – Today, General Tire continues the tradition of offering a complete line of quality, ultra-high performance, passenger, light truck, off-road, and commercial tires. While the General Tire engineering team continues to develop state-of-the-art technologies such as Duragen, 3D Sipe, and Monitor Technology, the red letter GrabberTM continues to be the trademark of the General Tire brand.
The Mt. Vernon, IL plant continues to operate building over three million General tire’s a year. The test track in Uvalde is also in full operation and is unsurpassed in its ground-breaking elements.
General Tire is part of Continental Tire the Americas, LLC and is based in Fort Mill, SC. With sales of €30.5 billion in 2011, Continental is among the leading automotive suppliers worldwide. As a supplier of brake systems, systems and components for powertrains and chassis, instrumentation, infotainment solutions, vehicle electronics, tires and technical elastomers, Continental contributes to enhanced driving safety and global climate protection. Continental is also an expert partner in networked automobile communication. Continental currently has approximately 169,000 employees in 46 countries.