HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill.—One of America's best known tire brands is returning to the market.
Sears Automotive, a business unit of Sears Holdings Co., has relaunched the Roadhandler tire brand after a 12-year hiatus.
The company began selling the Roadhandler Touring by Hankook—the first of three Roadhandler-branded models to be offered—on Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally Sears Automotive's strongest selling day. The introduction was what executives called a "soft launch."
The tire, produced in South Korea by Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. and co-branded with Hankook Tire America Corp., is available in 11 sizes and offered with a 100,000-mile limited treadwear warranty.
By February Sears expects to add 14 more sizes for a total of 25 and will begin promoting the tire.
"There are a lot of people out there who don't even know the Roadhandler brand has not been commercially available for over 12 years," said John Soule, chief merchant automotive, for Sears. So clearly Roadhandler…still resonates with an incredible amount of our Sears customers."
Along with the Roadhandler Touring, Sears plans to add the Roadhandler Sport ultra-high-performance tire line—which will be introduced by mid-2013 around one of the major holidays—and the Roadhandler LT light truck tire, which will be offered before year-end 2013. Sears would not confirm whether those tires would be made by Hankook.
Once the entire line is available, the Roadhandler brand will provide coverage for 80 percent of the tire market, Soule said.
The co-branding pact with Hankook has been in the works for the past year and half, said Joe Finney, president of the Sears Automotive Group and senior vice president at Sears Holdings.
He and several other Sears executives visited Hankook Tire's plant in Geumsan, South Korea, a year ago in May, he said, and "after going and seeing the quality and talking about opportunities, we raised it as an idea and it quickly got legs, and we've been working on it ever since."
The program also is exciting for Hankook and is different than some other private brand programs in that the tire maker is going to market with Sears by offering "our best-in-segment, latest and greatest current products," said Courtland Michaels, director of corporate accounts for Hankook.
"What we are doing is putting our best-in-segment products and positioning them high up in the Sears product screen as a premium product line, so we are very excited about that," he said.
This is a significant program for Hankook, he said, to be working with a major retailer that has great presence when it comes to retailing and merchandising.
"For us, the combination of the Roadhandler name, the product warranties that they are attaching to it and then our brand name, we think is significant in our industry," Michaels said.
The Roadhandler Touring by Hankook comes with what Sears is calling a "best-in-class" 100,000-mile treadwear warranty. The tire features a reinforced upper sidewall through the use of belt edge tape around the steel belts, according to Hankook.
The tire has a UTQG rating of 700 AB and is designed for a quiet, comfortable ride. Its construction and tread pattern are comparable with Hankook's original equipment touring fitments.
Of the 25 sizes that will be offered when the line is fully available, 19 are T-speed rated, four H-rated and two V-rated. Sizes will range from 185/65R14 to 235/55R18.