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Kumho announces aggressive plans for 2002

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Coming off a banner year, Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. is looking for a 32% dollar increase in sales in the U.S. in 2002. The U.S. subsidiary of Kumho Tire Co. recorded tire sales of $217.6 million in 2001.

Kumho Tire U.S.A. has other ambitious goals as well: a 30% increase in passenger tire sales, a 13% increase in light truck tire sales and a 40% increase in radial truck tire sales.

Kumho holds a 2% share of the domestic replacement passenger tire market and a 1% share of the replacement light truck tire market, according to Modern Tire Dealer's 2002 Facts Issue. It has a 1.5% share of the medium/heavy truck tire market.

Kumho is considering adding a sixth distribution center in the Chicago, Ill., area. The other distribution centers are located in Fontana, Calif.; Dallas, Texas; Atlanta, Ga.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Columbus, Ohio.

The focus in 2002 will be on building equity in the Kumho brand through increased emphasis on grassroots racing events and its involvement with outdoor sports, including its BASS pro fishing sponsorship, according to Mike Leverington, Kumho's director of marketing.

BASS has 600,000 paying members and is seen as the “next NASCAR” by ESPN in terms of growing popularity, he says. Of those 600,000 members, 92% own light trucks. Twenty-five percent of Americans fish, he adds.

Other marketing efforts include dealer programs, national and global advertising support, an informative Web site with dealer locator, and a comprehensive point-of-sale package. The company also is looking to establish an associate dealer program.

Kumho is rolling out the following new products this year:

* Ecsta V700, a V- and Z-rated, DOT-approved SCCA race tire line. It has a directional tread and a 6/32-inch tread depth.

* Ecsta MX ultra-high performance tire. It has extreme dry traction handling capabilities and is available in 23 Y-rated sizes ranging from 35 to 55 series.

* Ecsta STX light truck tire. It is available in 20 15- through 23-inch sizes for SUVs, pickups and 4x4s.

* KRS 02 and KRD 01 regional truck tires. The KRS 02 steer axle tire has a 20/32-inch tread depth and a Tread Centering Groove. The KRD 01 drive-axle tire has a 28/32-inch tread depth.

Kyu S. Cho, president of Kumho Tire U.S.A., says there will be an increased emphasis on the American market this year by the company's Korean-based parent. Capacity is being increased at Kumho Tire Co.'s three plants (two in Korea, one in China).

Cho says the parent company is still negotiating to sell a majority interest -- about 80% -- in the company to raise capital. However, one of the conditions of any sale will be to keep current management. He adds the company has received at least one reasonable offer, and plans to decide on a buyer in early February.

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