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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Nov/Dec 2002 : Ready, Set, Drive!

Ready, Set, Drive!
Challenge Bibendum helps power the advancement of cleaner and greener auto technologies.

By Karrie Laughlin

Every year, Michelin’s Challenge Bibendum presents the most environmentally-friendly innovations from the world’s largest vehicle manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and energy suppliers through a series of tests: pollution analysis, noise, performance, safety and design. The 4th edition of this innovative program, Michelin Challenge Bibendum 2002, took place this year from September 22 to 25 in Europe, traveling from Heidelberg, Germany to Paris, France, via the Hockenheim circuit and the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The event offers all those involved in the automotive and transportation sectors an opportunity to develop and evaluate the performance of their safest and cleanest technologies to meet the challenge of sustainable mobility.

The anticipated increase in the number of vehicles (from 800 million cars in 2000 to two billion in 2050) and the obvious environmental concerns that this presents to the future of mobility prompted Michelin to create this event. It was not intended as another race to promote their own brand, but rather a novel way to help focus attention on the fact that cleaner automotive technologies need to be brought to market.

Innovations profiled during the Challenge Bibendum require major research projects by all those involved in the automotive and transportation sectors, and some are already accessible and capable of high performance. The Challenge brings together both concept cars and prototypes, foreshadowing the future of the automobile. However, the event is also open to production vehicles. The performance of these vehicles is indeed proof that, year after year, the automobile industry is taking concrete steps in favor of the environment.

Nearly 70 vehicles representing the whole range of energy sources (gasoline, diesel, electricity, hybrid, fuel cells, LPG-c, NGV) participated in the 2002 event, demonstrating that it is possible to combine performance and driving pleasure with safer, more environmentally-friendly mobility. Technical tests for this year’s Challenge Bibendum were carried out with ADAC, a German automobile club.

This year, for the first time, meetings were held between a delegation of Challenge Bibendum participants and members of the European Parliament. Parliament president Pat Cox presided over the meeting that paired Challenge Bibendum participants with members of the three commissions to discuss issues related to sustainable mobility: President Luciano Caveri of the Regional Policy, Transport and Tourism commission; Mr. Goodwill of the European Parliamentarian representing President Caroline Jackson of the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy Commission; and President Carlos Westendorp y Cebeza of the Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy commission.

A question and answer session also was provided for all participants and journalists during which Edouard Michelin, CEO of the Michelin Group, was able to address the distinguished audience. When asked why Michelin invests in this event, Michelin commented, “We do it because we believe it is the right thing to do.” He explained that the Bibendum afforded Michelin with the opportunity to provide the automotive industry with the unbiased forum it needs to demonstrate its commitment to cleaner, greener technologies.

By its response and participation in Challenge Bibemdum, the automotive industry obviously agrees. When asked if all of the participants were required to use Michelin tires on their entry cars, the answer was a resounding “No!” Michelin’s intent is to act as an honest broker to advance technologies, while simultaneously reinforcing its corporate commitment to sustainability—as members of the World Business for Sustainable Development and as a supplier to the industry.

Next year’s event will be held September 23 to 25, 2003 in Sonoma and San Francisco, CA. This will be the second Challenge Bibendum in North America.

“We are excited to have the event return to North America,” said Michael Fanning, vice president, public relations and government affairs, Michelin North America. “The North American market already has several choices of hybrid and electrical vehicles—with more coming every day. Challenge Bibendum is the perfect place to showcase vehicles consumers can choose today to make our planet a better place to live.”

Plans for the 2003 event have already begun. “The support from Sonoma and San Francisco has been extraordinary,” said Michelin’s North American project leader Ron Musgnug. “We considered many locations for the 2003 event, but the work being done today in the Bay Area to promote advanced technology vehicles is a wonderful model to showcase to the world. The beauty of the wine country and the forward thinking of the city and county of San Francisco will be the perfect backdrop to the fifth Challenge Bibendum.”

Vehicle testing, information booths and media seminars will be based at the newly renovated Infineon Raceway in Sonoma. Vehicles will then rally across the Golden Gate Bridge to conclude the event in San Francisco. More than 200 international journalists are expected for the 2003 event.

Although some Americans may be unfamiliar with the name “Bibendum,” it is well known elsewhere in the world. “Bibendum” is the original name of the Michelin Man: the ever-pleasant man of tires that has symbolized Michelin for more than 100 years. The first Challenge Bibendum was held in 1998 to help celebrate his 100th birthday.

Complete information on the 2002 Challenge Bibendum in Europe as well as updates on plans for the 2003 event are available at

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