Kumho Tire Co. Ltd. is looking at sites in the U.S. for a passenger/light truck tire plant that might start production as soon as 2009, according to Kumho CEO Sae Chul Oh.
The executive said that despite having factories under construction in China and Vietnam, Kumho still needs more capacity, especially for larger diameter high-performance and sport-utility-type vehicles. Capacities at the Chinese and Vietnamese plants are being designed more for their respective domestic markets.
Oh discussed the company´s plans while attending the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas Oct. 30-Nov. 2.
Kumho is evaluating a number of sites for a single plant in the U.S., Oh said. Georgia and Alabama appear to be the leading candidates, company representatives said. Officials from Kumho Tire and its parent company, Kumho Asiana Group, have met multiple times with officials in Georgia, including Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Kumho officials expect to decide on the site selection by early next year, Oh said. The facility would be modular in design, use highly automated Kumho technology, and have a daily capacity of 6,000 to 9,000 units at startup, he said. The factory´s technology would be more advanced than that which Kumho uses in its Automated Production Unit plant in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.
Once Kumho finds a site that meets its selection criteria, Oh said, construction would start as soon as possible. Based on the pace of construction at the firm´s newest plants in China and Vietnam, production could start as soon as 12 to 18 months later.
Oh said site selection depends on a number of factors, including distance from factory to customers; cost of labor; availability of a skilled/trainable work force; and market size. Obtaining original equipment fitments also would play a role in the decision, he said.
The Kumho CEO didn´t disclose what the factory will cost. The company budgeted $155 million for the Vietnam plant and $150 million for the operation facility in Changchun, China, now undergoing trial production.