RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Sales are booming for Hankook Tire America Corp., rising 22 percent in 2006 and an expected 9.6 percent this year, according to the president of the U.S. arm of South Korea´s Hankook Tire Co. Ltd.
Hankook Tire America´s sales hit $613 million, and the company gained market share, said Greg Pae, who took the top spot in the U.S. on Dec. 1. He discussed the firm´s performance at a tire dealer meeting in Rancho Mirage attended by about 80 dealers.
The good showing came despite the industry´s sluggish performance in both original equipment and replacement sales in North America, Pae said. He also reported Hankook had sales of $77 million in Canada in 2006.
For 2007, Pae forecast U.S. sales topping $672 million. Worldwide, he predicted Hankook´s sales will rise 22 percent to $3.6 billion, putting the company in a tie with Japan´s Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. as the world´s seventh-largest tire maker.
Hankook is committed to investing in manufacturing and technology, Pae said. The company´s new factory in Hungary is expected to come on stream later this year and produce 1.3 million radial passenger, light truck, and truck and bus tires in 2007.
In 2008, the factory´s output is expected to rise to 5 million units, with production exceeding 10 million units by 2011. That will boost the South Korean firm´s total production to more than 68 million units by 2008 and more than 75 million by 2010.
Bill Finn, Hankook´s senior vice president, said the company continues to gain OE fitments in North America, including on the new Ford Edge, where the company is supplying the RH03 in size P235/65R17. Hankook tires also will be found on the new Ford and Lincoln people movers starting in 2008.
Besides a number of Ford models, Hankook also has OE fitments on some General Motors, Hyundai, Kia and Navistar International Corp. vehicles.
Hankook also is a supplier to Ford´s Around-the-Wheel program, which includes 4,400 Ford, Lincoln/Mercury and Volvo dealerships, as well as GM´s Goodwrench program, which consists of more than 6,000 GM and Saturn dealerships.
Through the Ford program, Finn said Hankook had a 5.6-percent share of sales in 2006. Michelin was No. 1 at 36.7 percent, followed by Goodyear at 30.6 percent and Continental at 23.6 percent.
In 2007, Hankook will introduce the Dynapro ATm RF10 premium all-terrain light truck and sport-utility vehicle tire, said Bill Bainbridge, director of brand communications.
Developed for high-powered pickup trucks, the tire features a 7- to 8-percent wider footprint than comparable products to resist uneven wear. This provides better grip and acceleration under all road conditions, Bainbridge said.
The tire´s tread design contains sharp edges patterned to look like tiger´s teeth, he said. The tiger-teeth look also extends to the tire´s shoulder design.
Available starting in May, the RF10 will be offered in Q, R and S speed ratings in 15- to 22-inch rim diameters and 50 to 85 series aspect ratios. P-metric sizes will be available in 2008.
The company also recently introduced a new long-haul tire, the Radial TL01. The tire has a six-rib design and features straight grooves for low rolling resistance.
It also features multi-angled siping on the interior ribs to aid in wet traction and has a defense groove on the outer ribs for resistance to irregular wear.
In his talk during the dealer meeting, Bainbridge outlined the company´s marketing plans for 2007, which Hankook is supporting with a 24-percent increase in the marketing budget. "One of our major objectives for 2007 is to value-up the brand as we continue building brand equity and loyalty with dealers and consumers," he said.