Today, Uniroyal tyres are well known by many drivers, especially for their rain tyres. If you’ve ever wondered how this company came to be, as well as who owns Uniroyal today, read on to learn the history behind this firm.
The logo for Uniroyal Tyres.
It all started with a veteran Belgian artillery, Oscar Englebert officer who, in 1868, opened a shop selling various rubber goods on the Place aux Chevaux in Liège. The idea was ahead of its time, with slow business at first. Englebert made ends meet by branching into paper goods but, within a few years, the soaring demand for rubber products brought a wealth of success for the store.
Naturally, Englebert decided to take advantage of this situation. He brought additional help into his business in the form of his brother, Gabriel, a qualified engineer. While Oscar looked after the marketing and organisation of the business, Oscar was entrusted with all the technical matters.
Uniroyal’s humble beginnings
Unfortunately, Gabriel died shortly afterwards and his duties were taken over by Oscar’s son, Oscar Englebert Junior, who was still an inexperienced student at the time. Oscar Junior had to prepare himself to take over the management of the firm from his father, whose health had rapidly begun to decline.
In 1877, the family firm opened its first rubber factoring. This produced a wide variety of items, including dolls, shoes and conveyor belts, the latter of which were sold as car as the Congo, where they were used in coal mines. In 1894, the Engleberts began their first experiments with tyres, initially for bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. In 1898, the firm produced its first bicycle tyre models, shortly followed by their first car tyres. The firm was the first manufacturer in the Benelux countries to do so, marking it as one of the pioneers of the European tyre industry.
At the time, the Liège factory was jokingly referred to as a harem, since the majority of its employees were women. This workforce did a superb job producing the firm’s own tyres, but they also helped produce Continental tyres, produced on special order from the German firm. Englebert also placed great emphasis on promoting his products, with an early investment into motorsport.
Uniroyal tyres have long been associated with motorsports.]
His results brought fame and success when Englebert tyres contributed to a victory in the famous Le Mans 24-hour race, all without requiring a single tyre change During the interwar period, as well as the years following the Second World War, the Belgian tyres were used by such famous figures as Stuck, Nuvolari and Fangio, while Enzo Ferrari fitted them on his Formula 1 cars.
The birth Of the umbrella
With time, the firm was joined by Georges Englebert, son of Oscar Junior, continuing the family legacy. Georges helped expand the company, opening a retail outlet in Cologne in 1919, as well as a new factory in Aachen in 1929.
Even from an early start, Uniroyal have been known for their rain tyres.
During the Second World War, the plant was bombed by the Allies but, in 1946, it was rebuilt and quickly resumed operations. Englebert was the first firm operating in Germany to begin tyre production after the war. It also had factories in Britain and France, with plants in Luxembourg and Turkey following shortly afterwards. From 1948, they also begin producing the new low-pressure Volumax tyres.
In 1958, the Engleberts began collaborating with the American firm US Rubber, consequently becoming the third largest tyre producer in the world. This marked the start of the Uniroyal-Englebert brand, which produced around 170,000 tyres everyday, thanks to 70,000 employees. Alongside this, the giant also produced fire hoses, swimming caps, golf balls and many other rubber products.
In 1967, it was finally decided to rename the brand to Uniroyal and, two years later the firm launched its first “rain tyre”, the Rallye 180. This was the first model to carry the characteristic umbrella symbol, which is still used today and is very iconic of the Uniroyal brand.
Even today, Uniroyal are widely recognised by the Umbrella logo on their rain products.
Joining forces with Continental
In 1979 Uniroyal came under the ownership of the German concern Continental, thus becoming a part of the Continental Group, Europe’s largest tyre producer. Within this new structure the Belgian brand continued to develop its speciality – tyres designed for driving on wet surfaces. Just after it merged with Continental, Uniroyal also began producing tyres for all-terrain vehicles.
In 1991, the firm presented its RTT-1 model tyre - the first with a directional tread with a V-shaped design. This design meant the tyre could rapidly absorb water, providing excellent resistance to aquaplaning. In later years, after a new image strategy in 2001, all Uniroyal tyres would be given V-shaped treads.
Another breakthrough occurred in 1994, in the form of the Uniroyal MS Plus 44 tyre, which brought the brand numerous successes in customer comparison tests. The same can be said for the Rallye 580 summer tyre, which was unveiled in 1995.
Currently, Uniroyal is a valued brand in the middle market segment and its name is commonly associated with the phrase “rain tyre”. Consequently, the brand’s symbolic umbrella speaks for itself, letting drivers know of the tyre’s high quality.
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