The group was founded in 1889 in Clermont-Ferrand by brothers André and Édouard Michelin. He quickly acquired a certain reputation with the invention of the removable tire, and through advertising innovations (such as the invention of the bibendum in 1898) and sports partnerships in a context of explosion in the use of bicycles and the automobile.
Michelin still has its head office in Clermont-Ferrand, a city whose existence the group has long governed and where it remains an influential presence. However, it has been tending for years to reduce its workforce in the region and in France in general. It became international from the 1920s by establishing plantations in Vietnam to ensure its supply of latex. These plantations, where drastic working conditions prevail, will be the scene of a violently repressed revolt in 1930. At the same time in France, Pierre Michelin and other executives of the group fight against the labor movement and openly finance the organization far-right La Cagoule.
Although it had to leave Vietnam with the advent of the communist regime, Michelin remains the owner or shareholder of several rubber plantations in Africa, Brazil and Southeast Asia and is a major player in this sector which is linked to significant risks of deforestation and land grabbing (just like palm oil).
For two decades, the group has regularly hit the headlines with its successive announcements of job cuts in France and more broadly in Europe, in favor of investments in emerging countries such as India and Brazil. It is also increasingly questioned for its role in climate change, tires being one of the main sources of greenhouse gases linked to the automotive sector.
Michelin is also an important player in the tourism, leisure and gastronomy sector with its maps and famous guides, including the Michelin Guide launched in 1900 to encourage the development of the automobile and bicycle.