Clermont-Ferrand is the corporate headquarters of Michelin, Corporation. Basically, the tire on the car you drive was invented right here in the center of France.
Michelin has a large museum here that is well done (but do all corporate museums prohibit photography? very annoying)--lots about how the tire came to be invented and promoted as well as information about other industries that Michelin has been involved in. I'm always a sucker for historical advertisements, and there was one room devoted to Michelin advertising.
I finally figured out why the Michelin man is white. The first tires used white cotton fibers with the rubber, and they looked not exactly white but at least whitish.
And did you know the Michelin man has a name? Bibendum. It comes from the first ad that featured him. Michelin's great innovation was inventing a tire that could be quickly and easily repaired in case of puncture. Its competitors, notably Dunlop tires of Britain, fought furious ad campaigns over whose tire technology was preferable.
In this ad, other tire companies' tires are sitting around watching with amazement as the Michelin tire drinks a toast with a glass full of shards of glass and other sharp bits of things Roughly translated, the ad says, "Now drink up! To your health! That is to say, the Michelin tire drinks up the obstacle."
And thus, Bibendum, aka The Michelin Man, was born.