In 1985, the Falken tire brand was introduced to the North American market. Thirty years later, the brand and its marketing arm, Falken Tire Corp., are entering a new era.
CEO and President Richard Smallwood calls it "Falken 2.0."
At the 2015 Falken Dealer Meeting in Kansas City, Mo., customers were treated to four new tires, plus plans for 2016. The plans include the manufacturing of Falken tires in the U.S. beginning next October; that is when the company will begin phasing out tire production for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. -- the company from which Falken and its parent, Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd., purchased a Buffalo, N.Y., consumer, commercial and motorcycle tire plant earlier this year.
The four new Falken tires, which will be available in the first quarter of 2016, are as follows.
1. Wildpeak M/T. The off-road traction tire, "built for the toughest terrain," according to Falken, will be available in 25 LT sizes ranging from 15 inches to 20 inches. Popular fitments for the tire include the Jeep Wrangler, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-Series, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra.
2. Wildpeak A/T3W. The all-terrain tire is engineered "for adventure, any time and in any weather." It will be available in 54 LT- and P-metric sizes, also ranging from 15 inches to 20 inches. Falken says it covers 70% of its targeted market.
3. Sincera SN250 A/S (pictured). The high mileage, all-season performance touring tire will be available in 54 P-metric sizes. It is designed to compete against the Michelin Defender, Continental ProContact, Yokohama Avid Ascend and Toyo Versado Noir.
4. Azenis FK450 A/S. The all-season ultra-high performance tire has a 50,000-mile limited tread wear warranty. It will be available in 48 sizes ranging from 16 inches to 20 inches.
Falken executives told the dealers the company will introduce 12 tires in the next 18 months. That includes four more consumer tires in the first quarter of 2017.
On the commercial side, Falken is not taking baby steps but "double steps," says Smallwood. The company will introduce four truck tires next year; it hopes to have 10 commercial account managers in place by the end of this year.
Original equipment fitments are a big goal for the company. Falken is already OE on some of the Chrysler 200 and Jeep Compass vehicles being exported to Europe. Canadian and U.S. fitments will follow, added Executive Director of Marketing Rick Brennan.
When asked if Sumitomo Rubber was looking to buy retail distribution, Falken Chairman Kenji Onga said, "Now, we have no plans." Smallwood immediately followed up by saying, "When you look at what's happening in the marketplace, you have to look at it, (especially) with the retail consolidation of dealers. But it is a big step for somebody our size to swallow this."
When asked if Falken planned to sell tires directly online, Smallwood had a quick response: "No!"