Giovanni Battista Pirelli, a twenty-four year old engineer, established Pirelli & C.
in Milan where, a year later, he set up the first general rubber goods factory. By the end
of the century, with the manufacture of insulated telegraph wires (1879), submarine
telegraph cables (1886) and the birth of the first bicycle tire (1890), the
diversification process had begun. The first passenger car tire dates back to 1901. In the
wake of product diversification, encouraged by the Company's fast growth, geographical
diversification was pursued: cable factories were opened in Spain (1902), Great Britain
(1914) and Argentina (1917).
Between the two World Wars, in 1924, the first oil-filled cable was constructed, a
fundamental technological breakthrough. The tire front saw the launch of Superflex Stella
Bianca. International expansion continued: in 1929 cables started to be manufactured in
Brazil and tires in the United Kingdom. Production of general rubber goods was begun in
Spain (1917), Argentina (1919) and Belgium (1938). From the 1920s onwards, racing drivers
such as Nuvolari, Ascari and later Fangio, began to score a lengthy series of victories
with Pirelli tires; to date the Company boasts over 80 successes in as many international
Grand Prix and 6 World Driver Championships, not to mention 18 victories with Alfa Romeo
and Ferrari in the legendary "Mille Miglia" race.
After the Second World War, in 1948 the "Cinturato" radial tire was born; it was
to leave its mark on tire history. Geographical expansion continued: factories for the
manufacture of cables were set up in Canada (1953) and Mexico (1956), general rubber goods
in France (1957), tires in Greece and Turkey (1960).
The Sixties and the Seventies saw further expansion. The Veith tire company was acquired
in Germany in 1963. Cable manufacturing activities were set up in Peru (1968) and
Australia (1975); the power cable activities of General Cable (USA) were purchased in 1978
and those of Trefimetaux in France and the Ivory Coast in 1980. These were also the years
of the union with Dunlop (1971): a venture which had the merit of being a forerunner of
the concentration trend in rubber industry which was to manifest itself later but which
was strongly conditioned by the external environment during its existence. The union was
severed in 1980. In those years Pirelli invented the low profile tire which remains the
most significant technological innovation since the radial tire. During the same period a
real revolution occurred in cables: fiber-optic cables appeared on the scene. It was
Pirelli in 1982 who first started producing the fiber in Italy, at
Manufacture was immediately extended to other affiliates abroad.
As for the majority of companies in the West, the '80s were years of new impulse for
Pirelli. Many an acquisition was made: Metzeler and Armstrong for tires; for cables,
Filergie and, at the beginning of the '90s, Standard telephone Cable's land
telecommunication cables activity. In 1989, the Tyre Sector was grouped under Pirelli Tyre
Holding N.V., listed on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, and the Cable Sector under Pirelli
In the early '90s the Group has successfully completed a major turn around which, over and
above numerous actions aimed to relaunch its activities, introduced a completely new
vision of running the business: Value Based Management.