In 1872 Giovanni Battista Pirelli, a young engineer, founded Pirelli & C. in Milan at the age of twenty-four. A year later, the first facility for the production of rubber articles was up and running.
Toward the end of the century the process of diversification began: from insulated telegraph cable (1879) to underwater telegraph cable (1886) to the first bicycle tires (1890). The first automobile tire came off the line in 1901. With the new century, Pirelli began enjoying its first sporting victories and building plants abroad: in Spain (1902), Great Britain (1914) and Argentina (1917).
Starting in the 1920s, drivers like Nuvolari, Ascari and Fangio regaled Pirelli tires with a rousing series of auto racing trophies. In 1927 the Superflex Stella Bianca racing tire was introduced. The beginning of the 1950s saw the birth of the Cinturato radial, which would leave a decisive mark in the history of tires. In the meantime, Pirelli continued with its massive geographical expansion, which proceeded through the '60s and '70s, acquiring the German tire manufacturer Veith, while starting up cable production facilities in Peru (1968) and Australia (1975). In the mid-'70s Pirelli invented the low profile tire, the famous P7, one of the most important inventions in the industry after the Cinturato radial. Another discovery revolutionised the world of cables: fibre optics.
During the 1980s Pirelli acquired the German motorcycle tire maker Metzeler and Standard Telephone Cable, manufacturer of telecommunications land cable.
After a company-wide restructuring in 1992-93, Pirelli implemented an international relaunch, and in 1994 presented the Pirelli P Zero ultra-low profile tread, used for the most prestigious tire models. In recent years, Pirelli Cables & Systems has reinforced its position of primacy in the energy field with the acquisitions of Siemens (1998), Metal Manufactures Ltd and Draka Holding (1999).
The new millennium saw yet another revolution in the tire sector: the MIRS™ production system, introduced in 2000, for the automated fabrication of high-performance tires.
While MIRS™ "mini-factories" were built in Germany, Great Britain the United States, extending also to motorcycle tire production, in 2002 the Bicocca pilot plant in Milan began operating its futuristic CCM (Continuous Compound Mixing) system.
2001 saw the opening of Pirelli Labs, the cutting-edge development division for the Group's new technologies, from photonics and fibre optics to material sciences.
As for real estate, after a decade of steady growth that made Pirelli the most important player in the Italian real estate panorama, Pirelli RE went public in 2002.
In 2004 the core business of the Group expanded to include new activities in the fields of broadband access and photonics (Pirelli Broadband Solutions), as well as those regarding the environment and renewable energy sources (Pirelli Ambiente Holding).
2006: Pirelli opened its first tire production plant in Romania.
2007 saw an increased presence of Pirelli in China. In the Chinese production plant as well as the production of tires for HGVs, tires for cars began to be produced.
During the year, the Group's holding in Olimpia was sold off.
2008: the Group continued expanding its production. Pirelli and Russian Technology signed an agreement for a joint venture to start tire production in Russia, in the region of Samara.
In 2009 a new plant was opened in Romania for the production of anti-particulate filters: an agreement for the manufacture of filters in China too was signed with the Chinese group Hixy.
In spring 2010 the Pirelli Foundation was officially opened at the Bicocca in Milan www.fondazionepirelli.org, through which the Group aims to valorise the company's historic archive and develop its business philosophy.
2010 marked the return of Pirelli to Formula 1, when the exclusive contract to supply tires for the 2011-2013 World Championships was awarded.
2010 also saw Pirelli focus on the core business of tires, and the Premium segment in particular, the high and very high range of tires in which the group already holds a position of leadership. As part of this focus, the transformation into a "pure tire company" concluded in the year with the sale of Pirelli Broadband Solutions and the spin-off of the real estate business, Pirelli Re, now called Prelios. The construction of the first factory in Mexico was also announced. Production is expected to start in 2012 and will be destined principally for the NAFTA market.
2011: Pirelli is confirmed as the exclusive supplier of tires for the World Superbike Championship until 2015.