MACON, Ga.—Eight years after the 2008 international financial crisis forced Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. to suspend work on its first North American tire plant, the tire maker finally opened the Macon facility—its ninth worldwide—on May 2.
The new facility's location, about 90 minutes southeast of Atlanta, allows the company to have a larger stake in one of the world's largest tire markets. North America accounts for 22 percent of tires produced globally, according to Kumho, which moved its U.S. headquarters to Atlanta from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., in 2015.
“North America is home to one of the world's largest auto and tire markets,” said Park Sam-gu, chairman of Kumho Asiana Group, at the factory's grand opening ceremony.
“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.”
About 300 people were on hand for the opening of the $450 million facility, including Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Macon Mayor Robert Reichert. Kim Seong-jin, South Korean consul general in Atlanta, and Lee Han-Seob, CEO of Kumho Tire Co. Inc., Kumho Tire U.S.A.'s South Korean parent firm, also were on hand.
“Along with this state-of-the-art facility,” Sam-gu said, “Kumho will put into place an advanced management system for day-to-day operations so that all employees can be proud of their company.”
The Macon plant, which opened with an annual capacity of 4 million passenger and light truck tires, is expected to serve as a foundation for enhancing the tire maker's market share in North America, according to Jim Frentheway, plant spokesman and director of human resources.
“The U.S. tire market is the biggest in the world. It helps us dramatically to be here, obviously,” he said. “Shipping from China or Vietnam is an expensive process, and it's more effective for us to be able to make them here.”
According to Frentheway, the company began shipping products to dealers in early May. He added that the facility is expected to reach its maximum daily tire output of 11,400 units by late June or early July. Staffing stands at 388.