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This claim, mentioned in the title text of the most recent XKCD, is one that I've heard before.

The LEGO Group is already the world's largest tire manufacturer.

This time, however, I did some digging. Hitting up Wikipedia first, I found it references this article, which was posted on April Fool's Day of last year. (Possibly a coincidence, but it also has a few mistakes such as claiming LEGO is Swedish.)

I can trace the statistics it cites back to this blog post, but that's about as far as I can find with those numbers.

[T]he company that produces the most tires is LEGO.

Granted, it is comparing apples and oranges, but the claim seems to be that the number of little "tires" that LEGO makes is larger than the number of "real" tires that any tire company makes. Is that true?

  • 1
    Even if we overlook the size difference of the tires. Those are not the same things. "Real" tires are made of different materials, uphold regulation and standards and serve a different propose. Most tires serve as an air container. Lego's tires are not made of the same materials, don't obey the same regulations and don't hold air. The only things that is similar between a Firestone tire and a Lego tire is their look, a black circular thingy. – SIMEL Oct 23 '13 at 16:35
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    So the real claim is "The Lego Group manufacture more black round thingies than tire companies manufacture tires". – SIMEL Oct 23 '13 at 16:38
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    @IlyaMelamed Yes, that is the claim. I think we all know it's comparing apples and oranges. But we can still dig up the numbers and verify/falsify it. – user5582 Oct 23 '13 at 16:42
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    Damn, I was going to ask that. – matt_black Oct 23 '13 at 20:23
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    LEGO tires are much more akin to old wagon wheels (or some of the performance bicycle tires) than modern automotive tires. – warren Oct 29 '13 at 18:10
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Yes, The Lego Group produces more Lego tires than tire companies produce "real" tires.

The Wikipedia article for Lego Tires says:

All tires (and wheels) for Lego products are manufactured by Lego, which has produced tires between 14.4 and 107 millimetres (0.57 and 4.2 inches) in diameter. In 2006 the Lego Group produced 15 billion individual pieces of Lego, which included 306 million tires.By 2011 Lego's annual production was increased to 381 million, more than twice as many as any of the other tire companies, including Bridgestone, Michelin, and Goodyear.

And they give the numbers:

  • Lego - 381 million
  • Bridgestone - 190 million
  • Michelin - 184 million
  • Goodyear - 181 million

Their source for the number of tires manufactured by Lego is a book called "Lego: A Love Story" by Jonathan Bender (2010) which states on page 105:

LEGO is the largest manufacturer of tires in the world, with 306 million produced per year

and this 2006 Bloomberg article which states:

Tire production accounts for some of that number; the factory also produces 306 million tiny rubber tires a year. In fact, going by that number, LEGO is the world's No. 1 tire manufacturer.

As to the source for the amount of tires manufactured by real tire companies, their source is the same article that appears in the question which states:

LEGO produces over 381 million tires per year. In 2011, Bridgestone produced over 190 million tires, Michelin 184 million and Goodyear 181 million. World tire production last year totaled 1.6 billion. LEGO's production was not included.

  • I wouldn't go so far as to call the LEGO tires fake; they're just different. In my edit to the question, I did distinguish between the two by calling them "tires" (with quotes), and the ones made by Bridgestone etc. as "real" tires (with quotes), but I put quotes around those words so that people would take those words as so-called. – user5582 Oct 23 '13 at 17:05
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    I feel strongly that calling them "fake" is not true. They are, in fact, "a rubber covering, typically inflated or surrounding an inflated inner tube, placed around a wheel". There are solid rubber tires used on forklifts and in other applications. There are plastic wheels proposed for vehicles. Lego's tires happen to be used on toys. The fact that their application is not automotive does not make them any less a "tire". Note that Lego is not the only non-vehicular manufacturer of tires. – Crispy Oct 24 '13 at 16:28
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Appears that in 2012 they were awarded the Guinness World Record for this. See http://aboutus.lego.com/en-gb/news-room/2012/june/guiness-world-record-to-the-lego-group/

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    This is a good reference, but to make it a better answer, could you include some of the details (numbers, comparisons with other manufacturers, etc.) Alternatively, you could suggest an edit to Ilya's answer to include this new bit of info. – user5582 Oct 25 '13 at 0:37

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