VIEQUES, Puerto Rico—Kumho Tire USA Inc. hopes to reverse several years of uncertainty and product availability issues starting in 2015 with the launch of six key products, enhanced global production capacities and an energized marketing strategy built around its sponsorship of the National Basketball Association.
“We are building our house,” Harry Choi, Kumho Tire USA chairman, told a select group of customers gathered at the company's 2014-15 dealer meeting in Vieques. “That's ambitious and it will require our best efforts and your support.”
Acknowledging that Kumho's product portfolio was growing old, Choi told the dealers Kumho plans next year to roll out six passenger, SUV and light truck tires to replace products that have been on the market for up to seven years in some cases.
After that, the company intends to refresh a portion of its product portfolio every year, he stressed, noting that Kumho's recent research and development cooperation pact with Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. is providing key R&D input.
Choi told the assembled dealers Kumho is shooting to sell 10 million passenger/light truck tire units in North America by 2018, which should equate to a 3.5-percent market share. This would put Kumho back at the market position it achieved in 2007 before financial problems at its parent company and the elevated U.S. tariffs of 2009-12 put a crimp in the firm's ability to provide product and grow.
Integral to Kumho's strategy to rebuild its market position and restore dealers' faith in its ability to overcome past fill-rate issues will be the firm's plant under construction in Macon, Ga. Due on stream by 2016, that plant eventually will be producing up to 4 million units annually.
At the same time, Kumho's decision in 2009-10 to move the majority of production destined for the U.S. back to South Korea from China will put the company in a strong competitive position now that elevated countervailing duties are again being levied on Chinese imports.
Separately, John Hagen, sales vice president since December 2013, said Kumho's goal rolling into 2015 and beyond is to become the “easiest manufacturer to do business with.”
To accomplish this, Hagen said Kumho is investing capital and human resources into enhancing its business systems, working to become more transparent and dependable, goals that include a pledge to deal with all dealer concerns/requests within 24 hours.
From a marketing standpoint, Hagen said, Kumho's overriding goal is to improve the lives of its customers. “We want to change the category,” he said, “by being distinctive, innovative.”
Kumho's “brand belief,” he said, is to make “every drive a new chance to experience a moment of perfection.”
On the product front, Kumho is launching:
• V720, a limited-edition street/track tire that will be UTQG treadwear rated at 200 to meet new Sports Car Club of America minimum requirements.
• The Solus TA71, an all-season grand touring tire that will be available in 38 sizes in 15- to 19-inch rim diameters. It will be backed by a 60,000-mile limited treadwear warranty, and thus targeted to compete with the Bridgestone Turanza Serenity, Michelin Primacy MXM4 and Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season.
• The Solus TA11, an entry-level T-rated all-season touring tire to launch in the third quarter in 44 sizes in 13- to 18-inch rim diameters. It's being targeted against the Goodyear Integrity and Assurance, Michelin Defender, Pirelli P4 All Seasons and Yokohama Avid Touring S.
• Crugen Premium KL33, an all-weather performance tire for crossovers and SUVs, to launch in the second quarter with 30 sizes in 16- to 20-inch rim diameters and T, H or V speed ratings. It's already OE on the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sonata and is being pitched against the Hankook Ventus AS RH07, Michelin Latitude Tour, Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza Plus, Continental CrossContact LX and Goodyear Assurance TripleTread All-Season. Kumho hopes to offer a 50,000-mle warranty.
• Road Venture AT51, an on/off-road performance tire set to launch in the second quarter in 43 sizes in 15- to 20-inch rim diameters and in P-metric, LT-metric and Euro metric fitments. It's being targeted against the BFG All-Terrain T/A KO, Michelin LTC A/T 2, Goodyear Wrangler A/T-S, Pirelli Scorpion A/T and Yokohama Geolander A/T-S.
• Ecsta 4X II, a premium all-season ultra-high-performance tire, set to launch in the second quarter in 53 sizes in 15- to 20-inch rim diameters in V and W speed ratings. It will be backed by a 40,000-mile warranty and is being targeted against the Bridgestone Potenza RE970 AS Pole Position, Continental ExtremeContact DWS, Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus and Pirelli P Zero Nero All Season.
These six are in addition to the Solus TA31, an all-season high-performance touring tire that launched recently and already is OE on the Kia Soul, Chrysler 200 and Hyundai Sonata in North America. It's available in 28 sizes in 14- to 18-inch rim diameters and is targeted to compete with the Bridgestone Ecopia EP422, BFGoodrich Advantage TA, Goodyear Eagle LS-2 and Michelin Primacy MXV4. It carries a 60,000-mile treadwear warranty.