Bridgestone, which turned 85 at the beginning of March, remains the world’s largest tyre manufacturer. The company, founded in 1931, employs more than 144 000 people in a business which is active in over 150 countries.
Bridgestone took its name from the surname of its founder, Shojiro Ishibashi, whose surname translates to “stone bridge” and was reversed to name his company. Although the company’s logo today consists of the stylised letter B, the shape of a bridge keystone – the top stone of a bridge arch – was used as the logo until 1984. The Bridgestone philosophy of “Serving Society With Superior Quality” as stated by Shojiro Ishibashi still remains the key foundation of Bridgestone globally to-day.
Bridgestone Philosophy in Japanese
Despite the entry of many new rivals into the tyre sector since the turn of the millennium, it was Bridgestone which had the greatest success in consolidating its market share to emerge as the industry leader. It now holds almost 15% of a global tyre market, with a Net Sales of 31,3bn US dollars for the 2015 financial year. Bridgestone plants are present in 26 countries, with a total of 171 plants worldwide.
A considerable number of these plants are devoted to producing raw materials used in tyres, with some plants given over to manufacturing other Bridgestone products such as those used in sporting goods, high-pressure hoses and seismic isolation rubber. The Bridgestone manufacturing capacity is supported by six technical centers for research and development, and ten proving grounds, at which testing is undertaken and designs fine-tuned.
Several of Bridgestone’s brands have become as identifiable as the company itself, including the Potenza name, introduced in the 1970s. The company was renamed Bridgestone Corporation in 1984 and rival tyre maker Firestone was acquired in 1988, leading to an expanded global production footprint.
Further expansion in global production and research facilities continued through the turn of the millennium, while the acquisition of Bandag in 2007 provided Bridgestone with access to the retreading market. The company’s increasing focus on the environment and road safety culminated in the launch of the Ecopia range of environmentally tyres in 2011. These tyres use advanced technologies to reduce rolling resistance, giving fuel savings and reduced emissions.
Bridgestone South Africa
Bridgestone South Africa’s production trends and activities have generally followed those of its overseas parent while reflecting the unique nature of the South African market. The company manufactures tyres at plants in Port Elizabeth and Brits, and supplies tyres for road going vehicles as well as off-the-road vehicles, including agricultural machinery. It has a strong presence in motor sport, with Bridgestone racing tyres available for various categories of racing cars and motorcycles, and the company being the sponsor of the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists’ Motor Sportsman of the Year award.
The company is proud to have developed the Supa Quick franchise group in South Africa, which was started in 1986 and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. From a single franchise in Port Elizabeth, Supa Quick has grown to the country’s biggest franchised tyre distributor, with over 260 stores which sell more than 1.6 million tyres a year.