Pirelli invests heavily in innovation, a strategy that has paid off for its Rome, Ga. facility making ultra high performance tires for the U.S. market.

Editor’s note: The Italy-America Chamber of Commerce Southeast, based in Miami, publishes a monthly interview spotlighting members of its newly established Georgia chapter, which seeks to showcase and grow business ties between the country and the state that already is home to more than 60 Italian firms. Learn more about the new chapter here or find more stories on our Italy channel at globalatlanta.com/italy. Sign up for monthly Italy newsletters here.

This month, Global Atlanta features the chamber’s interview with Clay Cooper, the HR Director in the U.S. and Canada of Pirelli, to discuss their high-performance tires and global expansion. The interview has been edited for length and clarity and republished with permission.

IACCSE: Please tell us a little bit about Pirelli Tire North America. 

Mr. Cooper: Founded in Milan in 1872, Pirelli is a major player in the tire industry and the only global player focused solely on the consumer tire market, which includes tires for cars, motorcycles, and bicycles.  

Pirelli is constantly seeking to meet the ever-evolving needs and wishes of consumers. This is seen in the continuing expansion of its product portfolio and the development of exclusive applications and customizations.

The company currently supports over 450 car and motorcycle sport events and has been the exclusive tire supplier to the Formula One™ World Championship since 2011. 

IACCSE: Who are your main competitors and what makes Pirelli unique?

Mr. Cooper: Within the tire industry, Pirelli competes with ‘Tier 1’ manufacturers. Over the years Pirelli has gained a sound positioning in high-value tires, and today is a world leader in the prestige car tires segment, with a share of more than 50 percent of the global market, and also in the radial motorcycle tires segment. Pirelli is also a leader in Europe, China and Brazil for New Premium replacement car tires and for Premium motorcycle tires.

Pirelli stands as a global brand known for its cutting edge technology, high-end production excellence, and passion for innovation that draws heavily on its Italian roots. All of this has grown from a strong commitment to research and development with an open and collaborative approach. Pirelli has 1,800 people engaged in R&D located across its Milan headquarters, two local technology centers and a portfolio of 6,100 patents. In recent years Pirelli’s investment in R&D has been over 6 percent of its revenues from high-value products, one of the highest levels among the world’s major tire producers. 

IACCSE: How was the business started and when did you arrive in Georgia?

Mr. Cooper: In 2002 Pirelli opened its first manufacturing plant in the United States in Rome, Ga. The plant covers a perimeter of 400,000 square meters and employs approximately 250 highly skilled workers and administrative personnel. 

Rome’s site houses one of Pirelli’s five Research and Development centers and, thanks to the highly automated system Modular Integrated Robotized System (MIRS), produces ultra-high-performance tires. The patented MIRS system allows for the elimination of most factors of discontinuity in the various manufacturing phases, guaranteeing particularly high-quality parameters and reducing energy wastage. 

Rome’s site is a strategic location for Pirelli since a U.S. presence allows us to respond, quickly and with flexibility, to customers with local production of high and ultra-high-performance tires. 

IACCSE: Are there any business numbers that you would like to share with us?

Mr. Cooper: Pirelli has a global workforce of approximately 31,500 employees worldwide.

IACCSE: What kind of experience did Pirelli have during COVID-19?

Mr. Cooper: In response to the Covid-19 health emergency, Pirelli proactively implemented a series of actions aimed at safeguarding the health of our employees and the wider community. Pirelli set up a global task force, and monitored developments with local authorities, in all the countries where the company has facilities. 

In the U.S., during the first phase, in an effort to protect the health and safety of workers amid the spread of Covid-19, Pirelli shut down operations at our tire production plant in Rome and began ramping up again at the end of April. The factory was fully sanitized following strict COVID-19 protocols based on our experiences in China and Europe

IACCSE: Are you in business with other Italian companies here in Georgia or American businesses oriented towards Italy? What can you share with us about it?

Mr. Cooper: We have enjoyed a strong partnership with JAS Forwarding in logistics.

IACCSE: Any other information you would like to share, e.g. hobbies, special interests, family, etc. 

Mr. Cooper: We are delighted to be one of the founding members of the Georgia Chapter of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce Southeast.


Clay Cooper
Human Resources Director – USA/Canada
Pirelli Tire LLC
100 Pirelli Drive
Rome, GA  30161
Office: (706) 368 5299
Cell: (256) 366 6376