It promises to be a busy year for Hankook Tire America Corp., with an expansion at its plant in Tennessee; new products and new sizes for existing products; its continuing sponsorship of Major League Baseball; and the 80-year anniversary celebration for Hankook & Co., the holding company of Hankook Tire.
Sooil Lee, president of Hankook Tire America Corp., told Tire Business the company will actively seek investment and merger and acquisition opportunities "while strengthening Hankook's competitiveness in the market."
How would you describe business thus far in 2021?
2021 has been a promising year for tire sales so far. We are already seeing increased market demand as Americans resume their pre-pandemic routines. As the economy continues to improve, more consumers who might have put off making large purchases (such as tires) in 2020 feel more comfortable making such purchases in 2021.
This has been made apparent through our rapidly increasing sales in the first half of 2021. Still, we understand that there are lingering after-effects of the pandemic that touch the industry and create additional complications that we must consider as we continue throughout the year.
What would like customers to know about how Hankook tackled the challenges brought on by the pandemic?
Throughout the pandemic, our number one priority has been keeping our customers and employees safe, as well as continuing to support our customers through this changing business environment.
We have worked hard to ensure that our fill rates and product supply have remained strong, and we have been in close communication with our customers to keep them informed of business challenges and our plans to combat them. During the pandemic, we also provided our dealer customers with sales opportunities through consumer rebates as well as offered various sell-in promotions.
What strategy drives your OE business? How has it translated into success in the aftermarket?
Hankook is now supplying original equipment tires for 46 auto makers including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.
Many of these global automotive partnerships have a long history with us. For example, we began supplying OE tires to General Motors in 2002 and to Ford in 1999. We believe this was made possible by our continuous aspiration towards providing the best performing tires.
We create tires that ensure robust quality without compromising on comfort so that our end-consumers can enjoy the performance of the cars to the fullest. We are also constantly studying and monitoring market trends, which allows us to be prepared to meet customers' demands.
The OE business is important because it not only allows us to partner with the world's leading car makers, but it also affords us the opportunity to increase our replacement business. When consumers enjoy the OE tires that came on their vehicle, they are more likely to use the same brand when it comes time to replace them.