Market-Driven Hankook Tire Charging Hard in U.S. Market
Step-by-step, the Hankook brand has been quietly growing throughout the world’s replacement and OE markets. Now Hankook is letting the North American passenger, light truck/SUV and ultra-high performance markets know that it wants to be a player that should be considered.
"I think this company is at a turning point in its history," Bill Bainbridge, marketing director for Hankook Tire America, told the media attending a recent Las Vegas ride-and-drive event.
Hankook may not be a name that consumers are familiar with, but the company is working to change that. Hankook is the oldest and biggest of South Korea’s three tiremakers, and has quietly developed and marketed tires in the U.S. for nearly two decades.
The Wayne, N.J.-based company has five distribution centers around the country, which feed local distributors and large retail dealers. Worldwide, the parent company ®“ Hankook Tire Manufacturing ®“ expects to reach projected sales of $1.6 billion in 2003.
According to Bill Finn, senior vice president, "Hankook is a technology-focused, market-driven company." The parent company operates two factories in South Korea and two in China with a combined capacity of 44 million tires per year. "Every tire is computer tested and hand inspected," Finn noted.
J.W. Choi, president of Hankook Tire America, said, "Our goals are to expand OE fitments and relationships, strategically broaden our dealer base, increase points of sale and increase consumer awareness."
Not only is Hankook going after the replacement market, its tires are now OE on the new Ford F150 2WD and 4×4. Hankook’s DynaPro AS is standard on the 2WD in size P35/70R17, while the DynaPro AT is standard on the 4×4 in size P235/75R17. Hankook isn’t new to Ford; it has been supplying Ford in Europe for nearly three years. Along with Ford, Hankook supplies Volkswagen, Kia, Daewoo, Mitsubishi, Renault and Hyundai, and it is working to secure other OE contracts, as well.
To coincide with the F150 OE fitment, Hankook is launching a massive consumer awareness campaign entitled "Discover Hankook." Ad spots have run in 2003 during professional baseball, hockey and basketball and NCAA basketball telecasts, with more scheduled in 2004. The Discover Hankook push included a media event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, allowing trade and enthusiast journalists to get a first-hand feel for the company’s products.
Hankook has invested heavily in R&D throughout the world to the tune of 5% of annual sales, which is part of the "forward thinking that earns Hankook OE fitments around the globe," according to Ray Labuda, Hankook’s vice president of tire technology at its Akron Technical Center (ATC).
ATC also works in concert with Hankook’s three other tech centers around the world to conduct testing of new products. One is the new Ventus K104, which was tested vs. competitor tires on identically prepped Mustangs at the media event. Writers pushed the cars through an autocross course to feel the difference in performance.
Another tire to come from the ATC, according to Labuda, was the Z211 R-Spec tire used to help Joel Lipperini win the season opening SCCA Northeast Division National race, and is supplied to all entrants in the SCCA Pro Racing MazdaSpeed Miata Cup that Hankook sponsors. The Z211 tread compound was first developed for Formula 3 in Europe and is now available in a DOT approved street/race tire.
Hankook offers a full line of tires including the Mileage Plus GT H707, a premium touring tire with both a 100,000 mile treadwear and road hazard warranties, and comes in popular 14-, 15- and 16-inch sizes. Add to the mix winter tires, light truck and medium truck tires and Hankook has an array of products to fit the needs of customers. Hankook also offers a complete marketing program with co-op funds for advertising, container programs and private label programs.