Growing and green

Dec. 17, 2010

Hankook Tire America Corp. bills itself as the fastest-growing tire manufacturer in the United States. The company is indeed expanding at a rapid clip.

In the U.S., Hankook’s total sales increased 22% year-over-year through the end of the third quarter. During the same period, its ultra-high performance tire sales grew by 39%.

Bill Bainbridge, Hankook’s director of brand communications, says the company’s success “starts with product.”

Hankook used last month’s Global Tire Expo/Specialty Equipment Market Association Show as a forum to preview four concept tires, including the Ventus V2 Concept High Performance All-Season Tire. (For more information about these and other new products, see pages 28-29.)

“We’ve also had a good core dealer base, so we’re gaining share of account,” Bainbridge told Modern Tire Dealer during the show.

“As more dealers take on one or two lines and have some selling success, they have the confidence to take on another line. It’s been a developmental process gaining share of account inside our existing distribution base.”

In addition, the company is focusing on developing more regional retailers. “And last but not least, our marketing investments have been working.”

In particular, Hankook officials were pleased with the results of the firm’s baseball-themed Great Catch and Great Hit rebate promotions, which provided cash rebates to customers who bought certain sets of Hankook tires. (Great Catch ran during the summer, while Great Hit wrapped up on Nov. 30.)

“Our rebate campaigns have driven business to our retailers, which is important to us, and that has been reflected in our sales numbers.”

Hankook signage at various Major League Baseball ballparks has raised the brand’s profile, as well.

“Our research says that customers are recognizing us,” said Bainbridge. “And our dealers are telling us that when they introduce Hankook as a possible solution to buyers, consumers are making the connection to the signage.”

In conjunction, he explained that Hankook has “stepped up” its point-of-sale support. “I think we provide our dealers with better point-of-purchase support today than we did three or four years ago.”

Enter Enfren

Among the four concept tires that Hankook displayed at its SEMA Show booth was the Enfren Eco, an environmentally friendly tire designed to fit hybrids and other high fuel efficiency cars.

The Eco will be Hankook’s first officially designated eco-friendly product for the North American market when it hits warehouses during the third quarter of 2011.

The product has been in the works for quite some time, according to Bainbridge.

“We recognized a couple of years ago that we needed to do something special” in terms of developing a “green” product for North America.

“We like to pride ourselves on being a market-driven company, so we have a tendency to not leap out and be the first, but watch the market develop and then build the right product.

“We want to make sure that when we bring a tire here it’s not only 2% or 3% different. We want it to be substantially different.”    ■