Pirelli: 150 years and not hearing them

Cars News

It was January 28, 1872 when Giovanni Battista Pirelli, at only 23 years old and with the support of 24 partners, bet on something completely new for the time: rubber. At the beginning, the “GBPirelli & Soci” of Milan dealt with articles for industrial equipment and machines, for steam navigation and railways. Then, little by little, the business extended to toys, raincoats and haberdashery and subsequently to insulators for electrical cables which, at that time, represented a sector in huge and rapid evolution. And so the company obtained important government orders for the submarine telegraph network and railway electrification. And on January 1, 1883, on the occasion of the opening of the Teatro alla Scala season, thanks to Pirelli, the temple of opera and classical music was electrically lit by 2,880 incandescent lamps for the first time.

But in the meantime, Pirelli has also secured the supply of cables that pass over Niagara Falls and the Nile, as well as orders in Spain, Argentina and France. Thus we begin to lay the foundations to reach a global dimension and for the transformation into one of the first multinationals of Italian origin. But in the early twentieth century another revolution is starting – that of the automobile – and Pirelli, which has already been producing tires for bicycles since 1890, in 1901 launches the Hercules, the first tire intended for cars. And in 1907 he obtained great media coverage thanks to the feat of Luigi Barzini, who with the Itala 35/45 HP equipped with Lombard tires, won the very tough Paris-Beijing by reaching the finish line twenty days early on the second classified car.

The characteristic logo with the elongated “P” appears only in 1908 and in the first decade of the century the first production departments in the Milanese Bicocca area also come into operation, because the original factory is now saturated. But the size of the company is now such as to also require attention to welfare: it begins with a mutual aid fund for sick workers, to arrive, as early as 1902, at an agreement with the commission of workers for the improvement of conditions of workers. Factories are also opened in Spain, England and Argentina. And after the Great War, during which production was converted to war requirements, the first factory in Brazil was also built.

Pirelli also began to deal with sports, mainly in the motorcycle field. In 1922 it was listed on Palazzo Affari and, in 1929 – the first Italian company – it landed on Wall Street. In 1932 the founder died and the reins of the company were taken by his sons Piero and Alberto, who began to study the possibility of replacing natural rubber with synthetic one, also using rayon for the carcass instead of cotton.

With the Second World War, production for military purposes returned and in 1946, at the end of the conflict, it was necessary to repair the damage caused by bombing to the Milanese factories. At that point the scooter market first and then cheap cars took off. Like sports, after all, and Pirelli-wheeled cars – with Tazio Nuvolari and Alberto Ascari among the standard-bearers – won grand prix and world championships.

In those years, Pirelli also began to invest in the world of culture and in 1948 the “Pirelli Magazine” was born, an example of corporate press aimed at the general public, which includes Dino Buzzati, Camilla Cederna, Umberto Eco, Carlo Emilio Gadda among its collaborators. , Eugenio Montale, Leonardo Sciascia, Salvatore Quasimodo and Giuseppe Ungaretti. In 1964, then, it was the turn of the first edition of a cult “object” such as the Pirelli Calendar, which was created by Robert Freeman, the Beatles photographer. Meanwhile, in 1960, the Pirelli Skyscraper was inaugurated, designed by the architect Gio Ponti, which is still today one of the symbols of Milan and retains its name, although it has been sold to the Lombardy Region.

And in 1955 Pirelli and Fiat held equal shares in the newborn car brand Autobianchi which, however, passed entirely under the control of the Turin-based company in 1968. In 1965 Leopoldo Pirelli, Alberto’s son, arrived at the top of the company and remained at the helm for a quarter of a century. But dark times also come. In the eighties the attempt to merge with Dunlop fails and in the nineties not even the attempt to take over the German Continental fails: this causes a business and economic crisis which, in 1992, causes the handover from Leopoldo Pirelli to his son-in-law. Marco Tronchetti Provera and the sale of non-strategic assets. In 2011, in an attempt to diversify the business, to enter the telecommunications market which is in enormous expansion, Tronchetti Provera becomes the reference shareholder of Telecom, but the experience, also due to friction with the world of politics, ends without success. in 2007.

In the sports field, however, the successes multiply. In rallies and on the track. In 2004 Pirelli became the sole supplier of the Superbike championship, and the contract, still in progress, is the longest in the history of motorsport at an international level. Then in 2010 – after the experience in Formula 1 as a supplier of Toleman, Brabham, Lotus and Benetton in the 1980s – Pirelli returned to the top automotive championship as a sole supplier. And it will be at least until the end of 2023.

Today the Italian company has 18 factories in 12 countries around the world. Since 2017 it has been back on the stock exchange and the main shareholder (37.01%) is Marco Polo International Italy which, despite the name is Chinese-owned, while the second most important stakeholder (14.10%) is Camfin, a Italian holding controlled by Marco Tronchetti Provera, who currently holds the position of vice president of Pirelli. On the other hand, 22.32% of the shares are in the hands of other institutional investors, mainly European and North American.

Rate article
( No ratings yet )
Cars Moto News
Add a comment