As South Africans observe Heritage Month in September, Dunlop, one of the most iconic and recognisable tyre brands in the world, is reflecting on its history as the country’s oldest tyre brand and longest serving tyre manufacturer on South African soil.
Eight years after John Boyd Dunlop’s invention of the first practical pneumatic tyre in 1888, the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company (SA) Limited was established in 1896 as the first tyre distribution depot in Cape Town, distributing imported tyres. This laid the foundation for the brand’s legacy of quality and reliability that has gone on to stand the test of time. Dunlop depots were opened in Johannesburg in 1902 and in Durban in 1916, followed by the first South African Dunlop factory opened in Durban in 1935, manufacturing the first locally produced tyre – a beaded-edge 30 cm car tyre.
“It is fitting that in Heritage Month, we contemplate not only our history of firsts in the tyre industry, but also how we can continue to pioneer ground-breaking tyre innovations and accelerate access to Dunlop tyre excellence across Africa,” says Lubin Ozoux, CEO of Sumitomo Rubber South Africa (SRSA), which manufactures the Dunlop, Falken and Sumitomo brands for the African continent.
“For me the Dunlop brand and South Africa have a lot in common. Our diverse staff are a unique reflection of our diverse nation, we are also resilient, believe in second chances, we care and are inspired and proud of our achievements and heritage,” he says. “Because Dunlop represents and understands South Africa, we want to continue to reflect that in the quality and safety of our tyres and the peace of mind we give our users. We’ve done this over the last 130+ years and we’re now focused on navigating the complexities of the current period to ensure sustainability and longevity well into the future,” adds Ozoux.
Despite the global turmoil of the last two years, the iconic tyre brand has continued to excel, dominating in the Tyre Brands Category for the eighth consecutive time in the Ask Afrika Icon Brands Survey 2020/2021.
Dunlop’s powerful Grandtrek Uncharted expedition and marketing campaign also scooped awards in the 2021 IAB Bookmark Awards, taking Bronze for Digital Strategy, Silver for Innovative Use of Media and Craft Silver for Excellence in Strategy. The campaign is also a finalist in 11 categories of the Supersonic New Generation Awards, with winners set to be announced on 23 September.
“These are encouraging accolades for our team because consumers continue to show their loyalty and connection to the Dunlop brand. They trust us to keep their families safe on the road and we want them to know that this trust is something we take very seriously,” says Ozoux. Ozoux says he is optimistic about South Africa and Dunlop’s future, with the brand enjoying exponential expansion in South Africa and across Africa.
“As a leading premium manufacturer of automotive tyres, we believe that there is still a future for manufacturing and exports from South Africa and that this will be invaluable in driving employment in the country,” he says. Dunlop remains committed to delivering the newest, most ground-breaking tyre innovations for the country.
Says Ozoux, “To ensure enhanced performance, safety, and longevity of the Dunlop tyre brand into the future, we will continue to focus on research, development and pro-active testing as priorities, supported by our commitment to innovation, people, safety and quality throughout the development of our tyres, during and post manufacturing.”
“We thank our employees and stakeholders for a phenomenal 130+ years and certainly look forward to continuing to be a part of the South African success story from both a business and community perspective, long into the future,” he adds.
Recent innovations, accolades and achievements for Dunlop both on and off the manufacturing floor include:
- an extensive retail footprint currently in excess of 300 branded retail stores across Africa, catering to the needs of every sector of the market, from suburban and township consumers to the fleet, truck and bus owner;
- commercial expansion of its manufacturing facility – first established in 1973 in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal – into a world-class manufacturing centre of excellence, bolstering increased production of quality passenger car and SUV tyres, as well as a dedicated truck and bus radial (TBR) tyre manufacturing facility;·
- boasting the most comprehensive range of SUV and 4X4 tyres in South Africa, the Grandtrek line of no-nonsense, all-terrain tyres for off-road travel, adventure and exploration, now including the Grandtrek AT3G, AT25, AT5 and AT3G White Lettering tyres;
-launching the most comprehensive tyre cover insurance in South Africa for SUVs, Dunlop Sure, which includes a Product Life Warranty for 8 years, Mileage Warranty of up to 100 000km and 12 month All Road Hazard Guarantee;·
- securing Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) agreements with automobile manufacturers including Toyota, Volkswagen, Nissan, UD Trucks, Tata, Isuzu and Iveco;·
- launching the FM800, Dunlop’s most advanced locally manufactured tyre in 2017 to replace over 15 Dunlop patterns with a single pattern across 42 of the most popular sizes in this market;·
- becoming the first South African tyre company to produce a 17 and 18-inch UHP (ultra-high performance) tyre;·
- setting the South African land speed record in 2002 at 388,538km/h with Ladysmith-produced Dunlop SP Sport 7000 DW-rated passenger tyres;·
- pioneering the Dunlop Energy Control Technologies or DECTES, that delivers next generation innovation and compounding technologies, resulting in reduced tyre maintenance and rotation requirements, increased re-treadability, an up to 30% reduction in tyre rolling resistance and delivers significant cost per kilometre and bottom-line savings to truck and bus fleet owners;·
- launching the premium SP835A TBR tyre and becoming the first tyre manufacturer to supply a full set of locally produced tyres for all positions to meet the needs of the trucking industry – from Steer, to Drive and Trailer;·
- tweaking the ‘Dunlop Take the Road’ brand positioning with ‘Don’t Take the Road’ during the 2020 21-day national lockdown to urge the public to stay safely at home;
- embarking on the Grandtrek Uncharted expedition and going where Google hasn’t yet been, on an expedition off the beaten track throughout South Africa to seek out roads that could be added to Google Street View using a special 360-degree camera;·
- being named KZN Investor of the Year 2019, KZN Exporter of the Year – Large category in 2018, and KZN Exporter of the Year – Africa in 2019;·
- launching the ‘Women driving the world forward’ website showcasing those who’ve steered the automotive sector to success, from early inventors of prominent car safety features that continue to save lives every day, to present-day, women-owned South African businesses and the company's own employees driving society forward;·
- partnering with the non-profit, Book Dash, to drive literacy and education in South Africa through initiatives such as the ‘Are We There Yet’ podcast series on the Dunlop My Tyres app and the International Literacy Day bedtime live streaming reading for families in September 2021.