For The Right Lane’s next installment in our “Brand Spotlight” series, we turn to Yokohama. If you’ve never heard of Yokohama tires, then you’re probably not an auto enthusiast. Lovers of motorsports should know the Yokohama brand well too. But if you don’t, here’s a great chance to learn more about a manufacturer that produces excellent tires.
The Early Years at Yokohama
On October 13, 1917 a partnership was formed between 2 already large manufacturing companies known back then as Yokohama Cable Manufacturing and B.F. Goodrich. At the time, Yokohama specialized in electric wires, and B.F. Goodrich manufactured rubber products including tires. This international collaboration was an outstanding fit, because the newly formed company (which would later be renamed The Yokohama Rubber Company) immediately gained traction in the fiercely competitive tire business.
Success for Yokohama wasn’t simply about selling Yokohama tires. They were devoted to improving the tires available in Japan. For instance, in 1921, Yokohama created their first belted tire. Soon after, the company built a second manufacturing plant that would allow them to meet the growing demand for their tires. Many of the new technologies that came during Japan’s industrialization helped advance Yokohama, just as many of Yokohama’s technologies helped advance Japan’s industrialization. However, Yokohama’s success during this period didn’t only benefit business and industry. With stronger, more reliable tires, Japanese consumers became more mobile.
During & After World War II
The effects of WWII on Yokohama were grave. In addition to the loss of many employees, Yokohama’s main manufacturing plant was completely destroyed. Nearly all progress came to a complete halt.
After the war, Yokohama was able to bounce back relatively quickly. The manufacturing plants in Mie and Mishima returned to the production of automobile tires with new resolve. The recovery of the company was aided by a rekindling of the relationship with B.F. Goodrich after wartime tensions subsided. Tight regulations that had been placed on rubber during the war were also lifted, which allowed the company to prosper.
During the 1950s, Yokohama adopted a distinct “beyond post-war” attitude. Their headquarters relocated from Yokohama to Tokyo, the capital and business center of Japan. A short time later, they introduced the first tubeless tire in Japan. When it was apparent that the tire manufacturer had fully recovered from the damage done by the war, progress only came faster.
Many different factors helped accelerate of Yokohama’s success during the 1950s and 1960s. The company entered a sales contract with Aeroquip Corporation, which brought Yokohama’s products to the US. Another new headquarters was opened in 1961. The name was officially changed to The Yokohama Rubber Company. The manufacturer explored other markets such as vinyl products and aerospace products. Then, in 1969, a new research facility was opened which would lead Yokohama into the future. That same year, Yokohama opened its US-based sales company, Yokohama Tire Corporation.
Eyes on the Future
With new research advancing the company and worldwide expansion, Yokohama helped lead the tire industry into the future. This leadership was also made possible by the boom of the automobile industry in the 1970s and 1980s. Higher demand for automobiles meant higher demand for tires and higher profits for Yokohama.
During this period, Yokohama rolled out various new types of tires. They introduced several different radial tires for passenger vehicles and heavy-duty tires for commercial purposes. New research facilities were built to further establish Yokohama as a worldwide leader in tire manufacturing. Their success came in part from expansion of manufacturing operations across the globe, particularly into the US and Canada.
Firmly established as one of the top tire manufacturers in the world, Yokohama has branched out even more. Yokohama has its own sporting goods division, specializing in golf clubs and golf balls. The corporation sponsors many sporting events as well. Those events include several motorsports races around the globe. Here in the US, Yokohama sponsors the LPGA, MLB games, and NBA games.
In Japan, Yokohama sponsorships go far beyond professional sports. The company is known for its philanthropy. After from the East Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster in 2011, Yokohama engaged in extensive volunteer work that aided local fisheries, forests, and the people directly affected by the disaster. Yokohama employees are also encouraged and empowered to volunteer for charitable purposes.
Yokohama, while devoted to making the world a better place through philanthropy, is still very much committed to making it a better place by producing the best tires possible. They continue to develop new tires and new technology that can help keep you safe on the roads and that have less of an impact on the environment.