Hankook introduces 2 tires
Hankook Tire America Corp. used its annual Partner’s Day meeting in Cancun, Mexico, to unveil the 2015 launch dates of two Hankook passenger tires for the North American market.
Shawn Denlein, senior vice president of sales, said the company is introducing the Kinergy GT H436 grand touring tire in May. The tire will replace the H426 in the company’s line-up.
The new tire will be available in H- and V-rated, 40- to 65-series sizes ranging from 15 inches to 19 inches. The UTQG rating will be 540/A/A.
Later this year, the company is introducing the Winter Icept evo 2 (W320). This tire will replace the company’s Winter Icept evo and will come in H- and V-rated, 40- to 65-series sizes ranging from 16 inches to 20 inches. The tread width of the sizes will range from 205 to 275.
Denlein also released a product availability time line for the company’s new Laufenn brand. The G Fit AS touring line and the X Fit HT SUV/CUV line will be available this month. The S Fit AS UHP all-season and the X Fit AT SUV lines will debut in May. The I Fit Ice is in the works for the following winter season.
Denlein told assembled dealers there could be some “supply issues” as the company ramps up production and inventory of its new Laufenn line. The company plans to release more details about its new products at a later date.
With Hankook’s stated objective of becoming the world’s fifth largest tire manufacturer (it is currently the seventh), “it is a daunting task to become number five with only the Hankook brand,” said Denlein. The company is attempting to move its flag brand up to the top “premium” tier and wants to eventually position its Laufenn brand in the “high value” tier.
The company says the Hankook brand is at the top of the “high value” tier and believes the Laufenn brand will start in the “value” tier. In the company’s view, there are four tiers: premium, high value, value and economy (see Chart No. 1).
More than once during the meeting, Denlein told dealers the consumer has very little to do with the purchase of tires, and stressed the importance of having a consistent message in marketing. He further said this means the company must continue to work in multiple distribution channels to grow.
“We have always been a fast-follower, but in the future we want to be first-to-market” with high technology tires, Denlein said.
The company continues to spend 5% of its overall revenue on research and development, with 10% of its workforce (1,400 people) in this area. Denlein said this is much higher than its competitors. He also said the Akron, Ohio, R&D center has changed its mission to become more involved in original equipment business.
Hankook continues to concentrate heavily on low-rolling resistance tires, something that the OE business wants, said Denlein. The company also continues to be very active in pursuing OE fitments, particularly in the high-end vehicle category. The strategy is that being associated with these vehicles will further enhance the Hankook name.
The company also announced it is in the process of assembling a dealer council to improve communication and feedback with dealers. Although no firm time frame was spelled out, Denlein said he hopes to have the council together in 2016.
The company intends to continue its broad approach to marketing to consumers and the distribution channels “in the hope of getting our voice everywhere.” Hankook’s long-standing sponsorship of Major League Baseball will continue in 2015.
Denlein said the company has doubled its sales in the last seven years, and has done so globally. The company’s sales are broken down in the following manner: 28.8% Europe; 21.7% China; 20.8% America; 18.4% Korea; and 10.3% rest of Asia and the world. Hankook’s worldwide sales are roughly $6.3 or $6.4 billion in 2014, depending on the exchange rate calculation.
According to Hankook, in 2014, it sold about 14 million tires in the U.S. and about 1.8 million tires in Canada. The company’s 2015 goals are to sell 15 million tires in the U.S. and 2 million tires in Canada. About 30% of the tires went to OE fitments and 29% were UHP tires. The U.S. accounts for about 20% of all Hankook sales worldwide.
The company says it has more than 5,000 points of sale in the U.S., of which 60% are independent tire dealers, and more than 1,000 points of sales in Canada, of which 20% are independent tire dealers.
Ahn and Hankook dealers
Hee-se Ahn has spent 29 years in sales and marketing positions in Korea, China, Dubai and Europe for Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. He now brings those skills to Hankook Tire America as its new president.
During an interview with MTD at Hankook’s annual Partner’s Day, Ahn said he’s still learning about this market, so he couldn’t pinpoint differences between North America and the previous countries in which he had served.
He did point out that China is still an emerging marketplace, and for the most part, Europe is very advanced. “The U.S. is the homeland of the automobile, so I would expect everyone here to be very knowledgeable, too.”
When asked by MTD what the one thing he wants to tell dealers, he answered, “Like the previous presidents, I know that our success comes from cooperation we have with our dealers, and I want to thank them as our partners and look forward to mutual growth from both sides.” ■
Brand position map
According to Hankook research, consumers rank tire brands as follows: premium, high value, value and economy. The chart below shows where they place some of the top tire brands in the aftermarket.
BFGoodrich, Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear, Michelin, Pirelli
Cooper, Falken, Firestone, General, Hankook, Yokohama
Fuzion, Laufenn, Nexen, Ohtsu, Uniroyal
Aeolus, Federal, GT Radial, Maxxis, Multi-Mile, Sailun