100 YEARS OF ADVENTURE
General Tire is Born
William F. O'Neil, “W.O.” and his partner, Winfred E. Fouse, founded the General Tire and Rubber Company on Sept. 29, 1915. General Tire began as an outgrowth of the Western Tire & Rubber Company, organized by the two young Akron businessmen. “W.O.” and Fouse were convinced that, with a quality product, there was a place for them in big league tire manufacturing.
At the time General Tire entered the tire business there were more than 300 companies making tires. “W.O.” decided to pass up the original equipment market and to produce a premium replacement tire, the oversized General Jumbo, an industry original, and pneumatic truck tires which cost more and were worth more than those of the competition.
The establishment of a nationwide team of fiercely loyal, aggressive, competent and independent dealers enabled General Tire to meet the challenge of making it the unquestioned premium tire producer in the field.
A Culture of Innovation
In the mid 1920s, General Tire & Rubber Company engineers invented the low-pressure General Balloon Jumbos. Requiring only 12 pounds of air pressure, the Balloon Jumbos revolutionized all tire manufacturing concepts. It was the first of many “new idea” tires – the blowout-proof Dual Balloon, the Dual 8 and Dual 10, the Squeegee and the Dual 90 – which extended the General Tire & Rubber Company position through the years as the industry’s premium tire producer.
A Major Truck Tire Manufacturer
Two significant developments by General Tire’s engineer – the origination of rubber flaps for truck tires in 1928 and the creation in 1931 of a complete line of low pressure truck tire balloons – positioned the company firmly as a major truck tire manufacturer.
General Tire Fosters International Business
In 1930, its 15th year, the company added an international page to its ledger, incorporating in Mexico a wholly owned subsidiary, The General Tire & Rubber Company, S.A., of Mexico. This resulted in a distinctive international business for the General Tire & Rubber Company.
International Harvester’s approved original equipment list
An important boost for the company’s growing truck tire business came in 1934 when an agreement placed General Tire on International Harvester’s approved original equipment list. By 1937, General Tire was on the OE list of all major truck manufacturers, providing an entrée by General Tire dealers for replacement and retreading sales.
World War II Tire Shortage
In the mid–1940s, the U.S. government faced a critical World War II-related tire shortage. More plants were needed and General Tire – like other companies – agreed to help. It selected a Waco, Texas, site for its second U.S. facility. Tire production began there in November 1944. What was then the industry’s most modern plant became obsolete, and tire production was phased out in 1986.
Entering the passenger car tire original equipment market
General Tire’s 1955 entry into the passenger car tire original equipment market, first as a General Motors supplier and later for other major auto producers, brought on an urgent need for expansion into more modern, efficient plants.
Nationwide Manufacturing Expansion
General Tire put its third domestic plant into production in 1960 at Mayfield, Kentucky, and added in 1967 its fourth plant, a giant tire facility at Bryan, Ohio, as well as an automobile and truck tire facility in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The sixth plant, equipped for full radial tire production, went into operation in 1973 at Mt. Vernon, Illinois. And for quality assurance, the world's largest tire test track was put into operation at Uvalde, Texas , in 1959. In 1983, the company's original Akron, Ohio plant, an obsolete, multi-story operation, was phased out.
Engineering and Technological Innovation
In many important ways, General Tire scientists enlarged the state of the art in the rubber industry. They solved a 40-year industry problem with the 1943 discovery of the carbon black latex-mixing masterbatch principle, and the 1949 invention of oil-extended rubber – a synthetic rubber ten-strike, which was patented in 1960. Their Gen-Tac adhesive was the answer for tire cord, and they were awarded patents for Nygen tire fabric, radial tire building machines, and a method (and machine) for improving performance characteristics of pneumatic tires. Along with its growth in the tire business, General Tire also branched into business areas beyond tires, including aerospace and defenses, entertainment and broadcasting, chemicals/plastics and industrial products.
Major Growth and Diversification
Successively, the corporation became involved in 1935 in industrial rubber products; in 1942 in broadcasting with the purchase of Yankee Radio Network, Boston; in 1944 in rocket propulsion with the acquisition first of a minority interest in Aerojet Engineering Corporation, Azusa, California (and in 1945 controlling interest); in 1945 in tennis ball manufacturing with the acquisition of Pennsylvania Rubber Company, Jeannette, Pennsylvania; in 1948 in television broadcasting as Yankee Network's WNAC-TV, Boston, went on the air; in 1950 in plastics manufacturing; in 1952 in chemicals manufacturing; in 1956 in wrought iron with the purchase of controlling interest in A.M. Byers, Co., Pittsburgh; in 1961 in CATV broadcasting through RKO General; in 1964 in airline transportation through RKO General, a major Frontier Airlines stockholder; in 1965 in soft drink bottling businesses through RKO General; in 1977 in hotel development and management through RKO General; and in 1983-84 in motion picture and video production, also through RKO General.
Corporate Rebranding and Restructuring
GenCorp came into being on March 29, 1984, when the shareholders of the General Tire and Rubber Company approved the company's proposal for a change of names and establishment of GenCorp, Inc. as the parent holding company overseeing its investments and particularly the operations of its four major businesses, which under the plan, would be separately incorporated subsidiary companies of GenCorp. All the subsidiaries were established as incorporated companies in December 1984: DiversiTech General, Inc., combined the company's industrial products, chemicals and plastics operations; RKO General was restructured with RKO General continuing to direct the broadcasting activities, while the non-broadcasting activities--RKO Pictures, RKO Bottlers, RKO Hotels and stock in Frontier Airlines--were placed with the newly formed RKO Enterprises subsidiary. The Aerojet General subsidiary continued to be GenCorp's aerospace and defense arm with major involvement in three areas of high technology-rocket propulsion, electronics, and ordnance. And General Tire, Inc. was established as a separate subsidiary to encompass worldwide tire operations.
Hostile Takeover Attempt
On March 19, 1987, a hostile takeover attempt was mounted against GenCorp by General Acquisition, Inc., an affiliate of Wagener & Brown and glass products manufacturer AFG Industries. GenCorp’s board of directors urged shareholders to reject General Acquisition’s offer. To fend off the raiders, GenCorp launched a massive restructuring program on April 6, which included the sale of General Tire. The move was part of a program designed to maximize potential growth in GenCorp’s core business, Aerojet and DiversiTech. GenCorp also continued a previous plan to sell RKO’s broadcasting assets and announced a decision to sell RKO’s bottling operations.
Continental AG Buys General Tire
On April 23, Continental AG of Hannover, West Germany, expressed an interest in General Tire and began to visit company facilities. On June 29, GenCorp and Continental signed an agreement for the sale of General Tire. Continental acquired General Tire, including related domestic and foreign operations, from GenCorp. The sale was finalized October 30, 1987. According to then Continental chairman Helmut Werner, “The acquisition will provide us with a sound and strong presence in the world’s largest tire market. This step is of vital strategic importance to us and will provide Continental with worldwide operations.”
100 Years Later — The Legacy of Innovation Continues
Continental is the second largest European tire producer. In recent years it has recorded substantial gains in both sales and earnings. For 1989, Continental reported U.S. dollars equivalent sales of $4.9 billion. Today, General Tire is a leader in the development, production, and marketing of quality tires for automotive applications.
The company continued to operate as General Tire, Inc. from March 29, 1984 through December 31, 1994. It then changed its name to Continental General Tire, Inc. from January 1, 1995 through April 30, 2000. As of May 1, 2000, the company’s name was changed to Continental Tire North America, Inc.