New tires and promotions boost Kumho brand
Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. is replacing its products and refreshing its image in 2015. The company previewed six tires and a brand awareness campaign built around professional basketball at its 2015 dealer meeting in Vieques, Puerto Rico.
The six new tires address a weakness in the company's product portfolio, according to Kumho CEO and President Harry Choi. "One of our critical issues in the past has been very old product averaging seven and eight years old."
The new products for 2015, and the quarters in which they will be released, are:
* Ecsta V720, an extreme performance summer tire initially in six sizes in 15-inch to 18-inch rim diameters and W speed rating, first quarter;
* ECSTA 4XII, a UHP all-season tire in 53 sizes in 15-inch to 20-inch rim diameters, V and W speed ratings with a 40,000 mile tread wear warranty, replaces the ECSTA 4X, second quarter;
* Solus TA71, a grand touring all-season tire in 38 sizes in 15 to 19 inch rim diameters, V and W speed ratings, replaces the ECSTA LX KU27, second quarter;
* Crugen Premium KL33, an all-season CUV and SUV tire in 30 sizes in 16-inch to 20- inch rim diameters, T, H, and V speed ratings with a 50,000-mile tread wear warranty and is an OE fitment on the 2013-14 Hyundai Santa Fe and 2013-14 Kia Sorrento, second quarter.
* Road Venture AT51, an all-terrain tire in 43 P-metric and LT-metric sizes, in 15-inch to 20-inch rim diameters, replaces the Road Venture AT KL78, second quarter; and
* Solus TA11, a touring all-season tire in 44 sizes in 13-inch to 18-inch rim diameters, T speed rating, 70,000 mile tread wear warranty, replaces the Solus KR21, third quarter.
In September 2014, Kumho released the Solus TA31, a high-performance all-season tire in 28 sizes in 14-inch to 18-inch rim diameters, T, H and V speeding ratings and 60,000 mile tread wear warranty. An OE fitment on the 2014 KIA Soul, 2014 Chrysler 200, and 2014 Hyundai Sonata, the Solus TA31 replaced the Solus KH16.
Choi says the company has taken two steps to resolve recent product availability issues. One was to relocate production of tires for the North American market to its plants in Korea and Vietnam. The other was to increase production of original equipment fitments.
"We had a big problem with fill rate especially this year. Because of the unexpected round of Chinese tariffs we had to transfer the tire molds from China to Korea. Another problem was high demand for high-inch tires in the OE business."
Dealers can expect better fill rates next year. "I don't want to over promise but surely we will have better delivery and fill rate."
The company says it sold more than 9 million replacement passenger and light truck tires in the U.S. in 2008, the latest year for which it would release sales figures. The company is aiming to sell 10 million units by 2018, or a 3.5% share of the U.S. market.
The company’s first plant in the U.S. is being built in Macon, Ga., and is scheduled to begin producing four million tires annually in January 2016. The plant will be dedicated to OE production in its first phase of operation, which will enable Kumho to increase replacement capacity at other plants.
Choi says the age of Kumho’s products contributed to the company’s “poor image” in the market and says the company will have a full line of new products by 2016.
The company is supporting its newest products with more sports marketing activities to raise awareness of the Kumho brand. Kumho signed a three-year agreement to be the official tire of the NBA and the NBA Development League (D-League) earlier this year.
“We're the official tire of the NBA and that brings a lot of collateral with it and a lot of benefits from the sales side, not just the brand building,” says John Hagan, national vice president of sales.
The company’s NBA-related marketing activities create opportunities for dealers to engage customers, according to Hagan. An integrated and intensive marketing program using social media, television, print and digital advertising, billboards, subway and other signage, and contests is planned during the National Basketball Association’s All-Star Weekend in February 2015.
Hagan says Kumho is “taking over New York City” for the All-Star Weekend. “We're hitting every touch point we can possibly hit during this event. You will see a strong presence of Kumho.”