CLERMONT-FERRAND, FranceFrancois Michelin, head of the company that bears his family name for 47 years, died April 29 at age 88.
Mr. Michelin dedicated his life to the company, heading it as co-managing director until 1999 when he handed over the reins to a management team that included his son Edouard, who tragically was killed in a boating accident in 2006.
In a statement, Group Michelin called Mr. Michelin a visionary and humanitarian, who embodied the values of respect that are the very foundation of our Group's identity.
Group Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard said, On behalf of the Group's employees, I would like to pay special tribute to this exceptional man who was universally respected for his values, his convictions, and his vision.
Pete Selleck, chairman and president of Michelin North America, cited Mr. Michelin's character, humanity, values, imagination and courageous foresight as his most important attributes. At the same time, he was a tenacious businessman, part of an unwavering legacy that led to the opening of 10 Michelin factories with nearly 9,000 employees across South Carolina.
A man of deep religious faith, Mr. Michelin was a great believer in the human spirit to succeed, Mr. Selleck noted, and he held in high regard all the people who worked at Michelin, from the plant floors to the top offices. He also bore tragedy in his lifelosing his father as a young boy, then losing his son and successor, Edouard.
Look and listen. It is the people you work with that will make you what you should be, Mr. Michelin said. Remember, even those workers who complete the smallest tasks contribute every day to a real and important accomplishment.
Mr. Michelin was born in France in 1926, the son of Etienne Michelin and the grandson of Edouard Michelin, who co-founded Michelin et Cie with his brother André in 1889.
Fond of science, he studied mathematics before joining the firm in 1951 at the Carmes, France, factory, working as an engineer. For two years, he was a shift employee, first as a worker in the truck workshop at the Carmes plant then as an operator for passenger car tires in Cataroux. He then trained with the salesforce, visiting dealers throughout France, and spent several months training in Italy at the Turin factory.
Upon returning to France, he became shop manager for the truck workshop at Carmes, then spent a year in research.
He was named co-managing partner in 1955 of Manufacture Française des Pneumatiques Michelin and Compagnie Générale des Etablissements Michelin, alongside his uncle Robert Puiseux. Four years later he became sole managing partner, then called François Rollier to work alongside him in 1966, followed by René Zingraff in 1986.
Under Mr. Michelin's leadership, the tire maker experienced unprecedented growth, the company said, driven by his passion for innovation as well as his uncompromising attention to quality.
During his tenure, Mr. Selleck noted, the company invented and sold the first radial tiresa technological revolution that drove its global growth. Other innovations included an early push for tires with low-rolling resistance for better fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions, and later, a single-wide tire for commercial trucks that saves weight, saves fuel and adds cargo capacity.
He was instrumental in transforming the group into an international company from what was considered the world's 10th largest tire manufacturer in 1960 to the No. 2 tire maker today, overseeing the construction of 30 tire plants in Europe in the 1960s and '70s and spearheading the group's expansion to the Americas, Africa and later Asia.
Among his achievements was the establishment of the Michelin Technology Center in Ladoux, France, which gathered together multiple R&D functions onto a single 1,100-acre site.
He retired from active duty with the company in 2002.
The people who knew Mr. Michelin, Mr. Selleck said, all emphasize his sincere concern for his fellow human beings and his great willingness to listen to the workers who make our tires.
Early on, Mr. Selleck wrote, I learned from him that when you visit a Michelin factory the first people you talk to are not in offices, but on the production floor. Many times he was so determined to spend time with Michelin employees that he would come unannounced, very early in the morningsometimes 3 or 4 a.m.to listen to employees working the night shift....
And as we mourn his death now, Mr. Selleck concluded, it is a good time to remember one of his many great sayings: 'I don't look back at the ground covered, but on the contrary, to that which remains ahead. It keeps your feet on the ground.'