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Kumho's Shin says it's not business as usual

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"Our industry is facing a difficult and uncertain future -- consumers no longer trust us the way they once did," said Hyung-In Shin, president of Kumho Tire Inc., on Tuesday.

Speaking to attendees at the Tire Society Annual Meeting and Conference on Tire Science and Technology in Akron, Ohio, Shin said the importance of technology cannot be over-emphasized because it directly leads to product quality and innovation.

If research and development is focused on providing solutions to the issues customers consider important, "technology can help move our industry forward," he said.

According to Shin, the company plans to focus on the following goals:

* improving tire ride quality, handling and noise characteristics without sacrificing traction or tread wear.

* developing cost-efficient run-flat technology.

* building more energy-efficient tires.

"In order to become a leader in today's ever-changing competitive circumstances, one should lead the changes, not just follow."

Shin said Kumho's new technical center in Akron demonstrates the company's commitment to fulfilling its goals in the North American market.

The 20,400-square-foot Kumho Technical Center cost nearly $4.5 million. Kumho plans to spend $10.15 million on additional test equipment for the Akron facility in the next seven years.

A $4 million expansion, which will increase the size of the technical center to 50,000 square feet, also is planned.

The tech center will develop a full range of tire products for the domestic market, including all-season and ultra-high performance tires.

In 1997, Kumho built a technical center in Great Britain. Another facility will be built in China in the near future, according to Shin, "thus forming a global network for systematic technology development."

Kumho recorded sales of more than $1.2 billion in 2000. The company has a production capacity of some 40 million tires annually, or 107,000 tires daily.

Its Korean plants in Kwangju and Koksung produce 52,000 and 40,000 tires per day, respectively. Kumho's Nanjing plant in China produces another 15,000 per day.

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