DUNAUJVAROS, Hungary — Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. has set its sights on gaining significant ground in Europe within the next three years.
The South Korean company recently opened a plant in Dunaujvaros, its first in Europe and fifth worldwide, as part of the firm´s plan to double its European market share to 8 percent by 2010.
Hankook also is considering opening a tire manufacturing facility in or near its growing North American market, according to Seung Do Jin, chief operating officer of Hankook´s European headquarters.
"However, we don´t have any specific plan to date, and it is likely that we will not build another facility until our new plant in Hungary is operating at full capacity in 2010," he said.
If that plan comes to fruition, it will significantly bolster the company´s U.S. arm, Hankook Tire America Corp., based in Wayne, N.J. The subsidiary currently operates a research and development center in Akron and oversees the marketing and distribution of its passenger, light truck and sport-utility vehicle tires, as well as medium truck and bus tires, to more than 400 independent dealers.
The company´s $650 million tire factory in Hungary is being built in phases, Jin said. The first stage gives the company car and light truck tire capacity of about 1.2 million tires per year. The second phase will push capacity up to 5 million units by 2008, he said.
That figure will be doubled to 10 million units by 2010 when the Dunaujvaros plant is expected to be fully operational, Jin said. The site will boost the South Korean firm´s total production to more than 68 million units by 2008 and in excess of 75 million by 2010.
By then, Hankook anticipates the facility will employ about 1,500, said a company spokeswoman. It currently has a work force of 810. Of those, about 28 percent are technicians and engineers, according to Jin, "and we will gradually increase the number of technicians by the time we (reach) full production." He noted that 310 operators and engineers have undergone training in Korea over the last three to six months.
The factory produces tires for passenger cars and light trucks. Its core products include two popular passenger tires, the Optimo K715 and Optimo K415, Jin said.
"Dunaujvaros´ strategic location in the heart of Europe will help capitalize on the growing demand from European customers for our products," said Seung Hwa Suh, Hankook´s global CEO. "The new facility will give a strong boost to our competitiveness by slashing logistics´ costs and improving our customer service."
He said shipping times for tires will be reduced from what was a minimum of one month to delivery within five days to all European locations.