During the 1910s and 1920s, competition was stiff in the relatively new automobile tire industry. Especially in Akron, Ohio. General Tire fought through the fierce competition after its founding in 1915 and is still making great tires today.
A Focused Beginning
The founders of General Tire, William F. O’Neil and Winifred E. Fouse, saw a business opportunity that led to early success. Instead of focusing on tires that would be sold to automakers and fit on brand new vehicles, General focused on creating replacement tires for consumers. Their first entry into the premium replacement tire market was the General Jumbo. That wasn’t the only specialization in the business model. General also devoted itself to tires precisely engineered for trucks.
On the Cutting Edge
With the engineering team of General concentrating on truck tires, several groundbreaking new tires were developed during the 1920s and 1930s. The low-pressure General Balloon Jumbo and “blowout-proof” tires helped win General a reputation for innovation. And that’s not all the company won. They won several patents for technology that advanced the tire industry by leaps and bounds. These inventions including a new fabric used in the company’s tires and a machine used in the tire manufacturing process.
Sales of General’s replacement tires were excelling during the 1930s, but that didn’t stop them from going after other parts of the market. A new line of truck tires attracted many automakers very quickly. Then, by 1937, General was used as original equipment by every major automaker that produced trucks. That, in turn, increased sales for General’s replacement tires too.
During this period, General expanded across borders too. In 1930, General launched a subsidiary in Mexico, one of the many international ventures to come. Within the US, the company grew across state borders. They became stakeholders in a tire fabric manufacturing plant in Barnseville, Georgia. Driven by tire shortages during World War II, General built its 2nd tire manufacturing plant; this one in Waco, Texas.
The 1950s & 1960s
Over the next 2 decades, General welcomed continued success in its core business, truck tires and premium replacement tires. In 1955, General entered the passenger tire market and quickly made a name for itself. The company built the world’s largest tire test track as a for both quality assurance and to test new tire technologies. In 1960, the 4th General manufacturing plan was constructed. Two more were built in 1967.
Like many of their competitors in the ‘50s and ‘60s, General began to branch out into industries totally unrelated to tires. They ventured into the aerospace, industrial products, and chemicals industries. Outside the automotive industry, the most successful branch of the business was its broadcasting division.
By the 1970s, General was so successful in so many different industries that tires — where the business began — was no longer the central focus. The tire engineers were still innovating and the sales force was still making profits, but General was a global conglomerate now. One final manufacturing plant was built in 1973 in Mt. Vernon, Illinois.
The huge structure of the company and its shareholders required a new business model. It wasn’t long before the tire division was reevaluated. In 1984, the parent company known as GenCorp divested itself of General Tire. Then, in 1987, General Tire was purchased by the German tire manufacturer Continental Tire.
General Tire Today
Still owned by Continental, General Tire continues to manufacture tires today. The company offers full lines of outstanding passenger, high performance, light truck, and commercial tires. The Mt. Vernon plant has an output of more than 3 million tires per year, and the test track that was once the world’s largest is still in operation today.