RIVIERA CANCUN, Mexico—Kumho Tire USA Inc. tire dealers and distributors will have two new replacement tires to sell in 2013.
The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based unit of South Korea's Kumho Tire Co. Inc. told dealers it will introduce an all-season touring tire, the Kumho Sense KR26, in the first quarter, and launch a still unnamed high-performance, all-season passenger tire as a replacement for the Ecsta AST in the year's third period.
The tire marketer announced the two new tires at its annual meeting at the Secrets Maroma Beach resort in Riviera Cancun.
The H-rated Sense KR26 is targeted for replacement use on small sedans and hatchbacks such as the Honda Civic and Mazda 3, a growing segment where original equipment tire sales of 14-, 15- and 16-inch-rated tires have more than doubled to 3.5 million units in the U.S over the past two years, said John Mosby, product planning coordinator, marketing department, for Kumho.
"This is where we see this market and this tire really succeeding," he said.
Auto makers have been trying to increase miles per gallon in vehicles in an effort to meet Environmental Protection Agency regulations and higher mileage requirements, Mosby said. Part of the way car manufacturers are achieving this is through the use of lighter-weight vehicles.
"They are reducing weight, they are reducing engine sizes, they are turbo charging, so we designed this tire to work with these lightweight vehicles, these smaller vehicles of today and the future," he said. "We did this by designing the tire to be lightweight itself.
"This helps the tire achieve lower rolling resistance numbers as well as making the ride and handling much nicer because there is just less mass and force moving around as the customer is driving on the road."
The Sense KR 20 is designed with circumferential grooves for lateral grip and water evacuation, multiple lateral grooves for wet and dry traction as well as a full-depth sipe system that provides enhanced traction in light snow.
For reduced road noise, the tire employs variable pitch tread blocks.
Kumho will offer the tire in 28 sizes in 13- to 17-inch rim diameters. It has a UTQG rating of 520 AA and comes with a 40,000-mile limited treadwear warranty.
Tire dealers at the meeting also learned about the replacement to the Ecsta AST, which the company has dubbed the KU25 until a name is chosen.
This KU25 features what Mosby called an engineered directional tread designed to stay quiet throughout the life of the tire. The tread uses a lot of siping for all-season traction, which is also enhanced by the tire's tread compound. Variable pitch tread blocks help reduce road noise.
"We think we've achieved a wonderful blend of long mileage, dry performance, wet traction and mild snow traction," he said.
This tire addresses the shifting needs of vehicle owners in this category.
"The economic downturn has created consumers focused on longevity and all-season performance," Mosby said. "When the economy gets in recession, people look for value. They need a tire that gives them everything and they are not willing to sacrifice any areas of performance. So we had to keep that in mind when designing the new KU25."
Kumho benchmarked the KU25 against the Yokohama Avid Envigor H and V and claimed that it found the tire offered the same dry traction, was better in the wet, had lower road noise and ride comfort, and offered significantly better snow traction, Mosby said.
In developing the tire, Kumho kept sizing at 55-series aspect ratios and below. "The reason we've done that is we feel this is the natural market for a high-performance all-season tire," he said.
Vehicles targeted for this tire include owners of sports cars such as the Lexus IS 250 and Mazda RX-8 and sporty sedans such as the Honda Accord EX V6.
"The user wants a sporty tire but they also need something that they can live with every day on what is most likely their commuter tire," Mosby said. "They need it to go long mileage, they need it to perform year round. This tire does that."
The KU25 has a V-speed rating, upgraded from the H-rated AST, and a UTQG rating of 560 AA. Kumho has given the tire a 55,000-mile limited treadwear warranty and will offer it in 27 sizes in 15- to 18-inch rim diameters.
Pricing will be similar to the current AST.