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You’ve probably seen the “Firestone” name on car or truck tires. But you might not know that the catchy brand is just the surname of founder Harvey Firestone. Even more surprising, the company is currently a subsidiary of Bridgestone Tires, which has a similar name but a very different history.

Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford were lifelong friends. They were also longtime road trip and camping buddies. This is one reason that every Ford vehicle came from the factory with Firestone tires for 100 years.

A stack of tires in front of a Firestone sign.
Firestone Tires | Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Harvey Firestone first began building solid rubber tires for fire equipment in 1900. Over the decades he branched out to air-filled (pneumatic) tires and then tires for the first automobiles.

In the automobile supply business, Harvey Firestone befriended another pioneer, Henry Ford. The two of them went on several camping trips around America between 1918 and 1924. Something tells us they drove Fords with Firestone tires. Along for the ride were inventor Thomas Edison and naturalist John Burroughs.

What did Harvey Firestone invent?

Firestone was far from the first person to put a rubber tire on an automobile. Much of his innovation was in manufacturing and supply chains.

A Grand Prix car driving under a huge Firestone sign at the Monterrey race track.
Firestone Grand Prix | Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Thanks to Firestone’s contract to supply OEM tires for every Ford Vehicle it had a steady demand for decades. The company opened one of the world’s largest rubber plantations in Liberia to guarantee a steady supply. By the 1970s, it had 17 separate plants building tires and other products worldwide.

Are Bridgestone and Firestone tires the same?

By the 1980s, Firestone Tires was losing $250 million every year. Bridgestone Tires of Japan stepped in and acquired Harvey Firestone’s company. Together, the new corporation was able to be more efficient and ultimately very profitable.

A woman pushes a stroller past a Bridgestone/Firestone tire outlet store with several vehicles on lifts having their tires changed.
Bridgestone/Firestone tire shop in Chile | Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Shojiro Ishibashi founded his own tire company in 1931. Because his surname means stone bridge in Japanese, he named his international company Bridgestone. But the name’s similarity to Harvey Firestone’s well-established brand might have helped his marketing efforts.

Are Firestone tires made in the USA?

Firestone/Bridgestone tires are made all over the world. Some Firestone and Bridgestone tires on U.S. vehicles are manufactured in the U.S.A., but not all of them.

Firestone racing tires lined up at the Firestone Grand Prix in Monterrey California.
Firestone Grand Prix tires | Jamie Squire/Allsport via Getty Images

Between 2017 and 2020, Consumer Reports tested eight vehicles with OEM-equipped Firestone tires. Of these, two had Firestone tires made in the U.S.A. Three of these had tires hailing from Costa Rica. One set each came from Brazil, Canada, and Vietnam.

During the same period, Consumer Reports tested 12 vehicles equipped with Bridgestone tires. You won’t be surprised to hear that five sets of these tires came from Japan. But just as many sets originated in North America: two from the U.S., two from Mexico, and one from Canada. The remaining two vehicles had tires from France and from Hungary.

When Bridgestone bought Firestone, it folded the company’s American plants into its own production network. Today, Bridgestone is headquartered in Tokyo. But Bridgestone’s North America division, which includes Firestone, is headquartered in Nashville Tennessee.

Next, find out how Jeep got its name or learn more about the agricultural side of Harvey Firestone’s business in the video below: