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General brand: 90 years and counting

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Continental Tire North America Inc. (CTNA) is celebrating the 90th anniversary of its General tire brand in 2005.

"We are very proud of the General tire brand," says Martien de Louw, CTNA's CEO and president. "The products the Continental Corp. offers today continue to meet the demanding and complex needs of our customers in both the original equipment and replacement sectors."

A brief history

The General brand was born on Sept. 29, 1915, when Akron, Ohio, businessmen William F. O'Neil and Winfred E. Fouse founded the General Tire and Rubber Co.

With more than 300 companies making tires at the time, O'Neil and Fouse decided to produce a premium replacement tire, along with a line of pneumatic truck tires. Over the next decades, General Tire revolutionized tire manufacturing with inventions such as the low pressure General Balloon Jumbo, carbon black latex, oil-extended rubber and Gen-tech adhesive for tire cord.

As the company diversified, General Tire became a multi-business corporation investing in industries such as tennis ball manufacturing, Aero jet engineering, radio, television, plastics and chemicals.

As the auto industry expanded in North America, so did General Tire. A critical tire shortage during World War II and the company's entry into the original equipment passenger tire market in 1955 led to additional production facilities. (CTNA owns three tire manufacturing plants in the United States; it also oversees the General-Toyo-Yokohama, or GTY, plant in Mount Vernon, Ill.)

In 1987, Hannover, Germany-based Continental AG purchased General Tire Inc.'s tire division and later reformed it as Continental Tire North America Inc. With the acquisition, Continental became the fourth largest tire manufacturer in the world.

"In today’s market, the General tire products are best known for tough, durable and high-value tires on passenger cars, pickup trucks and commercial vehicles," says the company.

According to Modern Tire Dealer's 2005 Facts Issue, the General brand accounts for 3.5% and 5% of the domestic replacement passenger and light truck tire markets, respectively. General's OE light vehicle market share in the United States and Canada is 13.4%.

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