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Cooper will focus on HP, UHP this year

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Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. plans to substantially boost its high performance and ultra-high performance tire market share in 2004, Cooper Chairman, CEO and President Tom Dattilo told analysts this afternoon.

The Cooper brand currently enjoys 2% of the domestic performance and UHP tire market, according to Modern Tire Dealer data -- a half-percent jump over 2002 figures.

Carl Casalbore, Cooper's vice president of high performance development and retail sales, recently told mtdealer.com that Cooper is selling out of its Zeon UHP tires.

Dattilo told investors the biggest challenge Cooper will face this year is achieving adequate production levels to meet consumer demand.

"We'll have to rely on expanded outsourcing with our Asian partners" to keep up.

Cooper's recently announced $32 million investment in three of its four United States manufacturing plants will help as well, he says.

The Findlay, Ohio-based tiremaker also plans to boost its tire advertising this year.

Earlier today, Cooper announced it had achieved record sales of $967 million for the fourth quarter of 2003.

For the full year, its Tire Group's sales totaled $1.9 billion, a 6% increase from 2002 and another company record.

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