The wheel was one of the most important inventions by mankind. It made travel, commutation, and transportation easier for humans which enabled how the world moves today. With all the focus on the wheel as an invention, the significance of the invention and innovations in tyres have somewhat been underappreciated. Tyre added or rather enabled the functionality of the wheel and unlocked its utility. The invention of tyres took place in Europe and has today grown to a market size of more than USD 200 Billion in size. In the research report titled- Europe Tyre Market Outlook, 2026, Bonafide Research has conducted an extensive study on the current trend, patterns, and dynamics of the tyre market in Europe along with data points and qualitative insights. In order to reach these insights, the market has been segmented and studied based on vehicle types, end-use, design, and sales channels.
As the automotive industry is leaping rapidly towards electric vehicles, tyres have to be innovated to suit and ride with the trend. It becomes important to understand the history of tyres and the role European markets played in them to understand the present and future tracks for the European tyre market. The earliest tires were made of bands of bands of leather and iron placed on wooden wheels used on carts and wagons. In the year 1839, Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanized rubber making it elastic and strong enough to be used as cushion tyres for cycles. By the year 1845, that pneumatic or air-filled tyres were invented and patented by Robert William Thomson. His designs involved multiple thin tubes inside a leather cover that could absorb shocks. The first patent for the standard pneumatic tire was lodged by the Scottish inventor Robert William Thomson in 1847. However, the first practical pneumatic tire was made in 1888 on May Street, Belfast by John Boyd Dunlop. As the bicycles market was hot during the 18th century the pneumatic tyres grew additional popularity. The next challenge was to grow from traditional bicycle tyres to automobile tyres. In 1891, the Michelin brothers invented the detachable pneumatic tyre. In late 1913, Henry Ford introduced the first conveyor belt assembly line to the world making the start of the first stage of automobile popularization. In the year 1931, American company Du Pont successfully industrialized synthetic rubber. This development allowed tire industry which was dependent on natural rubber, to increase tire quantity and quality ushering in a turning point in tire production. In the 1940s, to be economical as against rising oil prices, it became popular to reduce the size and weight of existing car models. Eventually, many manufacturers employed the front-wheel-drive method for their cars. With the development of the tubeless tyres in 1943, the resulting weight reduction contributed significantly to the saving of fuel. By the year 1949, radial tyres, came into the picture. Because of the lower deformation of the radial tyre than bias tyres during driving, radial tyres have better fuel efficiency. During the period of the 1970s to 2000, tyres started getting better and branched out to different types catering to different needs of the customers and vehicle owners. For example, with the transformation of the automobile from an effective method of transportation into a symbol of personal financial power and freedom, people started getting increasingly interested in driving performance. Driving performance increased with the development of Ultra-High-Performance tyre which boasts superior cornering, drivability, and braking in accordance with the new development of tyre technology.
Today, with increasing interest in environmental conservation, a variety of eco-friendly cars like hydrogen cars and electric cars are being developed. Accordingly, tyres that increase fuel saving and thus help protect the environment are also in development. European companies have shaped the trend for the global tyre market historically and have played a major role in how we commute today. Today the names Michelin and Dunlop, Pirelli, and other major European tyres companies have an unparalleled influence in the global tyre market primarily because, of the rich legacy that they have been carrying since the inception of the industry itself.