NUEVO VALLARTA, Mexico—Hankook Tire America Corp. is pledging improved fill rates this year as it builds on record 2010 sales of $1 billion in the U.S. and Canada, company executives told attendees at the firm's annual dealer meeting in Nuevo Vallarta.
The North American sales record represents 21-percent growth over 2009 and is based on shipments of 12.6 million tires, according to President Soo Il Lee.
The North American performance helped parent Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. increase sales globally 11.5 percent to a record $4.65 billion, which should be enough to propel the South Korean company to No. 7 among the world's largest tire makers, moving ahead of Japan's Yokohama Tire Co. Ltd. for the first time.
The records were achieved as Hankook celebrates two anniversaries: 70 years as a tire company and 30 years in the U.S.
Hankook's global revenue was based on sales of 81 million tires, a gain of 14 percent over 2009. The improvement included the effects of higher selling prices.
Lee said Hankook's sales increase could have been even higher had the company been able to produce more tires. As it was, the firm suffered product shortages in some sectors, a problem he pledged the company would address this year through expanded capacities at Hankook's five plants and finding the “best way to utilize our stock in the most effective way possible...”
Lee did not go into specifics of the company's plans other than to say Hankook's global capacity is scheduled to expand about 9 percent this year to 87 million units.
A large portion of the increase will come at Hankook's plant in Hungary, which is in the midst of a $333 million, three-year expansion.
Additionally, Hankook Tire has committed more than $1.3 billion to build plants in China and Indonesia in the coming three to four years, with roughly half of the Indonesian plant's capacity going to the North American market. These projects will hike the firm's global capacity 15 percent to 100 million units.
At the same time, Lee said, “in the long run, we eventually will need a factory on the American continent as well,” referring to plans he's disclosed previously. Lee said sales in North America would have to exceed 20 million units before the company would consider building such a plant.
Lee did challenge Hankook's sales staff and customers to communicate more effectively to improve supply forecasting.
On the selling front, Hankook will increase its marketing investment by more than 75 percent over 2010, although no figures were divulged.
Marketing in 2011 will include a continued and expanded presence in sports arenas, more spending on prime-time television, a continued presence in the key sports and lifestyle print media, more one-off consumer exposure events like the tire-shaped billboard in Times Square, and improved point-of-sale merchandising, according to Marketing Man- ager Bill Bainbridge.
Lee also cautioned dealers that there will continue to be “substantial price issues” in the industry based on skyrocketing manufacturing costs.