Hankook reveals plans for tires and brands in 2015

Feb. 10, 2015

Hankook Tire America Corp. unveiled the 2015 launch dates of two Hankook passenger tires for the North American market at its annual Partner’s Day meeting Tuesday in Cancun, Mexico.

Shawn Denlein, senior vice president of sales for Hankook, said the company is introducing the Kinergy GT H436 grand touring tire in May. The tire will be replacing the H426 in the company’s line-up. The new tire will be available in H- and V-speed ratings, 40- to 65-series, in 15-inch to 19-inch sizes. 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-speed ratings, 40- to 65-series, in 16- to 20-inch rim diameters and 205-275 tread width.

More details about both products will be revealed at a later date.

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 in March. 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, according to Denlein.

Denlein told assembled dealers that there could be some “supply issues” as the company ramps up production and inventory of its new Laufenn line.

With Hankook’s stated objective of becoming the world’s fifth largest tire manufacturer (it is currently the seventh), Denlein said “it is a daunting task to become number five with only the Hankook brand.” The company is attempting to move its flag brand up to the top “premium” tier and wants to position its Laufenn brand at 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 at the “value” tier. In the company’s view, there are four tiers: premium, high value, value and economy.

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, according to Denlein.

Denlein said the company has doubled its sales in the past 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 exchange rate calculation.

The company continues to spend 5% of its overall revenue on research and development, with 10% of its workforce 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.