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Choi’s vision for Kumho

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Choi’s vision for Kumho

Harry Choi, Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. has gone back to the basics. It was a necessary move, according to the first-year CEO and president.

The company had lost focus and “failed to read market trends very well.” New products were few and far between. Pricing policies were inconsistent. The associate dealer program, renamed Premium Fuel, needed to be revamped.

So Choi came up with a five-year plan to turn the company around. It centers on his “5 P’s, 1 S” philosophy. The five P’s stand for product, price, promotions, place (i.e., distribution channels) and people. The S stands for “system-based sales.”

If the plan is implemented successfully, Kumho will sell at least 10 million replacement consumer and commercial tire units in the United States in 2017.

“We are truly trying to rebuild our foundations, not only for one year, but also long-term,” he said. “As such, we are suffering a lot of pain, both externally and internally.

“Our customers have been willing to share our pain, and we very much appreciate that.”

At the 2014 Kumho Dealer Meeting in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Choi and his team shared his vision one-on-one with key accounts — and Modern Tire Dealer.

New products

In 2014, Kumho will introduce two replacement tires. The first will be the Kumho Solus TA31 in June.

The new high performance all-season touring tire will be available in 37 H- and V-rated sizes ranging from 14 to 18 inches. It will replace the Solus KH16.

Three of the sizes, fitments on the 2014 Kia Soul, were announced last October: 205/60R16 92H, 215/55R17 94V and 235/45R18 94V.

The symmetric, five-rib tire features large inner and outer shoulder blocks designed for excellent dry traction and handling. Sipes and cross grooves in the center ribs are responsible for the TA31’s ability to hold the road under wet (and snowy) conditions.

The Solus TA71, a grand touring UHP all-season tire, will be available in 38 sizes in December. It will replace the Ecsta LX Platinum (KU27).

Kumho also will add six sizes to its Ecsta PA31 line in March 2014. The high performance all-season tire, which Kumho backs with a 50,000-mile limited tread wear warranty, was introduced last September.

Perhaps the biggest news is the planned launch of the Road Venture AT51 in 43 sizes in March 2015. It will replace the Road Venture AT (KL78).

“This is the tire our dealers have been asking for,” said David Koh, marketing communications manager.

Premium Fuel

The original Fuel associate dealer program has changed a lot since 2007, too much, according to Koh.

“So our goal for 2014 is to elevate the Premium Fuel program and make it more consistent. It will include basically our entire product line.” There also will be improved marketing support, including customized dealer promotion programs, and three dedicated sales program coordinators.

The new Kumho Dealer Portal allows members to see, in “real time,” where they stand in relation to their purchase targets, said Koh. The company’s Edge training program, point-of-sale materials and wearables store also can be found in the portal. “We want the dealer to have a one-stop shop for everything related to Kumho.”

The company is asking existing members to re-enlist through Feb. 28, 2014, so the company can keep them better informed about program benefits and improvements.

Going to market

“All our marketing efforts are aimed at how to help our dealers sell our brand more easily,” said S.B. Kim, manager of Kumho’s North American marketing team. “To achieve that goal, we have to increase our brand awareness.

“Last year, we focused on the dealer side. In 2014, we are also going to focus on the end-user side, because our current brand awareness is weak and not enough compared with our expectations.”

Kumho will continue to rely on sports marketing and its annual spring and fall national consumer promotions to increase brand familiarity. Products for the promotions have yet to be chosen.

The marketing plan will be backed by a reorganized, larger sales division, led by John Hagan, the new national vice president of sales. Hagan was formerly senior director of sales operations at Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.    ■

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