MACON, Ga.—Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. ceremoniously opened its first North American tire plant on May 2 with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and dozens of other state, local and corporate dignitaries in attendance.
The state-of-the-art $450 million plant in Macon has an annual capacity of 4 million passenger and light truck tires, Kumho said, and is expected to serve as a foundation for enhancing the tire maker's market share in North America.
The plant covers 861,113 square feet and is built on 150-acre plot. Kumho started work on the plant in 2008, but suspended construction later that same year in the throes of the global recession. Construction resumed in 2014.
The new facility's location—about an hour and a half southeast of Atlanta—also allows the company to have a stake in one of the world's largest tire markets. North America accounts for 22 percent of the tires produced globally, according to Kumho, which moved its headquarters from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., to Atlanta in 2015.
“North America is home to one of the world's largest auto and tire markets. We believed a production base on this crucial continent is a must if we are to significantly expand our presence in the market in our bid to become a top tire manufacturer,” said Park Sam-gu, chairman of Kumho Asiana Group, at the grand-opening ceremony May 2 at the factory.
“Along with this state-of-the-art facility,” Park continued, “Kumho will put into place an advanced management system for day-to-day operations so that all employees can be proud of their company.”
He added that the tire maker also will strive to make the plant “the pride of the entire community.” The non-union plant opens with 340 employees, Kumho said, and should settle at about 360 at full capacity.
Kumho said its goal is to gain a foothold in the region's OE market and it believes its Macon facility gives it the ability to grow. The new plant is located 184 miles from Hyundai Motor America's Montgomery, Ala., auto assembly plant and Kia Motor America Inc.'s Wet Point, Ga., plant is just 110 miles away.
Earlier this year, at Kumho's U.S. dealer meeting, Jim Mayfield—executive vice president of marketing and sales for Kumho Tire U.S.A. —said improving efficiency and working toward a better positioning strategy for its products were among the company's goals for 2016.
“We've got an aggressive plan to launch new products in 2016, just like we did in 2015,” Mayfield said. “We're going to continue work on solidifying our pricing position and identifying where we really should be positioned in the market place.”
The company heralded its entry into domestic production when construction began in 2008 on the Macon factory, but following a global financial crisis, work at the site ground to a halt and was suspended before resuming in 2014.
The factory is equipped with a cutting-edge proprietary system dubbed Automated Production Unit, which the company claims will help boost product quality and manufacturing efficiency.
In addition, a new lot tracking system using radio frequency identification, combined with laser guided vehicles—unmanned carriers that move along pre-determined routes—ensure a fully-automated movement of products, allowing for real-time production control on a strict first-in-first-out basis, Kumho said.
About 300 people were on hand for the opening of the new facility, including Gov. Deal, Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, South Korean consul general in Atlanta Kim Seong-jin, and Lee Han-Seob, CEO of parent firm Kumho Tire Co. Inc.
Kumho entered the U.S. market in 1975 and opened its Kumho America Technical Center in Akron in 1990.