Michelin Man: 5 Questions With North America President Pete Selleck

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Michelin Beyond the Driving Test 2017

Over the decades of teen driver education in America and beyond, one critical bit of learning was always overlooked: How young drivers should take care of their tires. The oversight is almost mind-boggling, given that those four circles are the only parts of the vehicle that are supposed to touch the road.

But Michelin North America has been taking care of that deficit almost single-handedly. Working with the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the US-based arm of the French tire giant launched a program three years ago called Beyond the Driving Test that was dedicated to filling the critical void in tire safety education.

Focused on expanding to all 50 US states, Michelin North America just announced that the campaign has achieved its “50 by 2020” goal—two and a half years earlier than anticipated.

Michelin FIA Beyond the Drivers Test announcement 2017 Brooklyn

As announced (above) at last weekend’s FIA Formula E event in Brooklyn, New York, all 50 US states have responded to the campaign by making commitments to include critical tire safety information in driver training materials by 2020, clinching victory ahead of schedule and up from 31 states a year ago.

Pete Selleck - chairman and president, Michelin North America“Once we got this launched everyone saw that we needed it,” Pete Selleck, the Greenville, SC-based chairman and president of Michelin North America, told brandchannel, in the wake of the Brooklyn announcement with FIA. “Most people recognized it had been an oversight.”

Michelin Beyond the Driver's Test campaign

The campaign found support with key organizations including the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Beyond the Driving Test program was conducted in the United States in partnership with FIA’s global #3500Lives campaign, which calls attention to the lives lost on roadways every day around the world, and especially deaths among younger drivers.

Michelin and FIA successfully brought the program to all 50 US states more than two years early thanks to a multi-faceted integrated campaign that included a partnership with Katie Couric and teen YouTube stars:

Michelin also sponsored the 2016 summer tour for the band 5 Seconds of Summer, which ran this Beyond the Driving Test safety video:

Its 2017 Super Bowl ad also emphasized driver safety overall:

Pete Selleck - chairman and president, Michelin North AmericaSelleck (right) shared more insights about the successful driver safety education campaign, innovation and the just-refreshed Michelin brand in our chat below:

How did teen driver education become a focus for Michelin North America?

The daughter of one of our senior people noticed a friend’s tires were bald and told her mother, “I would have known if they’d actually taught us anything about tires (in drivers’ education classes) but they didn’t.” That inspired our senior person to push the company to do something about it. We got involved and tied it to the work we’ve done with FIA.

We studied the problem together and discovered that virtually none of the US states had any information about tire maintenance, like tread depth and tire pressure, in their curricula. It was universally absent. And yet traffic accidents remain the No. 1 killer of teenagers, and about 12 percent of accidents with teenagers involve poor tire maintenance.

Congratulations on reaching your target for the driver safety campaign ahead of schedule. What does this program do for the Michelin brand?

We’ve always been focused on safety and reliability and trust. Obviously, it’s in our interest to help consumers do everything they can to be safe. We love tires, but they don’t work correctly unless they’re properly cared for, or if they’re not replaced at the right time for wear. This is in the interests of everyone. Michelin needs to be the leader.

Michelin 2017 new logo brand identity Bibendum

What can you tell us about Michelin’s new corporate brand refresh and the streamlining of the iconic Michelin Man, Bibendum?

Yes, we last refurbished our logos and [visual] brands about 1998, on the 100th anniversary of the Michelin man. We do it periodically. We need to do it every 20 years or so just to make sure the Michelin man and logo are staying modern. It’s not a dramatic change.

Michelin North America 3D printing of tires

Michelin North America is getting more active in acquiring or investing in startups that bring innovation to your efforts. What’s your philosophy and strategy?

For about 100 years we were a pretty secretive company and tried to do everything internally. That worked really well for us. But we recognized that the rate of technological change is surpassing our ability to master it alone. We’re looking at various needs that we have and the fact that we look at ourselves as more than just a tire company, as also one that helps with mobility, is important.

So we’ve made some acquisitions in the last couple of years. One of them is a company that is involved in 3D printing, and now we’re printing elements of our molds that we can’t make with traditional stamping processes and that are found in our Premier All-Season tire.

We also took a stake in a company called Robert Parker to basically connect our Michelin Guides for restaurants and travel. It’s a tremendous asset that we haven’t exploited to the full extent of what it can be outside of Europe. Another example related to restaurant guides is, in Europe, we acquired Book a Table, a reservations service which is an equivalent to Open Table in the US. It’s tied to our connection to mobility for dining.

For a global brand headquartered in France, Michelin has significant manufacturing in the US. Is that a story that the public—or officials—know and appreciate?

We’re certainly involved in helping to educate the government on the importance of foreign direct investment in the US. Many foreign companies have invested tremendously in manufacturing in the US, not only to satisfy market needs but to export from the US. For example, the bulk of mining tire production in the world is in South Carolina, and we export 80 percent of that to the rest of the world. We need the government to fully understand the impact of free trade.


Get more branding insights in our Q&A series. Suggest a Q&A: editor@brandchannel.com.

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