Hankook Tyre Will Never Leave You Flat

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-By Dave Coté

It took years of back-breaking hard work and mind-bending research and development to bring to market a tyre to keep you and your precious cargo safe on any road condition. Usually, when part of a car that is crucial to its safety and stability is failing, it will make a noticeable noise or make the car feel strange before it becomes dangerous. This tells you when to bring the car to a local mechanic for maintenance. When it comes to a tyre this is not always the case, which is why it is very important to look for a brand of tyre that has been around the world and has passed the test of time by making a consistent investment in technological innovations.

Hankook has always been at the leading edge of tyre technology. Based in Seoul, South Korea, Hankook is the seventh largest tyre company in the world, and works hard to maintain its strong market position. While taking performance, safety, comfort and environmental impact into consideration, in 1990 Hankook Tyre was the second tyre firm in the world to develop foam rubber. This is a type of rubber that is manufactured with a foaming agent to create an air filled matrix structure and is a key material in winter tyres, which will stay flexible when the mercury dips below zero. In 1999 Hankook Tyre was able to stay on par with its competition by producing its own ‘Run-Flat’ tire, designed to allow drivers to continue moving at speeds of up to 80 kilometres an hour for 80 kilometres after a puncture without having to install a spare.

Hankook Tyre’s commitment to research and development is so strong that even during the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 the company succeeded in keeping its R&D department funded 100 per cent while cutting production capacity down to 75-78 per cent. This enabled the continuation of research into the company’s new green tire dubbed ‘Enfren’ that was unveiled in the summer of 2008 after two and a half years of research. In the words of Paul Park, CEO of Hankook Tyre Australia, “’Enfren’ boasts higher fuel efficiency than regular tyres and a sharp reduction in CO2 emissions. As the name suggests ‘enfren’ is ‘environmentally friendly’. It combines a number of technologies including a special silica compound and structural design efficiencies to reduce the tyre’s rolling resistance by 21 per cent.”

Hankook Tyre is now at the forefront of green technology, as it has launched several products that are recognised and awarded internationally for their low environmental impact. ‘Enfren’ along with the company’s ‘Kinergy Eco’ are well known for these diverse eco-friendly technologies.

Hankook Tyre’s strength in green technologies has led to its procurement of the ‘Top Energy Efficiency Grade’ in Korea and Japan. The ‘Enfren’ Eco H433 is actually the first tyre to receive the highest achievable grade on the energy efficiency grading system in Korea. In Japan this was the first imported tyre to receive an AAA mark on the labelling system for fuel efficient tires. Amazingly enough, Paul Park also tells us that when you drive on a tyre with a lesser grade, you’re losing about 1.6 kilometres per litre, as opposed to being able to drive up to an impressive 80 kilometres more per 50 litre tank in a mid-sized car, between fill-ups. To learn more about how the use of Hankook Tyre’s ‘Kontrol Technology’ philosophy will ensure a more controlled driving experience through a set of proprietary innovations and values as well as more intense research and development, visit http://global.hankooktire.com.

Way back before any of this infrastructure was in place, in the 1970’s there was a Korean government-led infrastructure upgrade that started it all. This gave Hankook Tyre the push it needed to fall face first into a new exciting world of innovation in technology. After creating an expressway that stretched between Seoul and Busan the Korean government imported American Greyhound buses to drive the 426 kilometre distance. Hankook Tyre was mortified to find that its tyres would be flat by the time they arrived in Busan! These incidents illustrated the need to substantially upgrade its research and development operations and led to the forming of a technical group with three departments: Compounding and Raw Materials, Tyre Construction and Tyre Testing. Experiments were done in a laboratory that was located in a Hankook plant in Yeongdeungpo, a suburb of Seoul. In the publication ‘Driven: The Hankook Tire Story’ Dr Kim Hwi-joong, Hankook’s former Chief Technology Officer and Chief Production Officer is quoted as saying, “Back then, we used coal briquettes for heating, so everything was black. Technical Officers did not have a ‘Banbury Mixer’ so we mixed all of our rubber compounds by hand. Our clothes – even our underwear was covered in black. My grandmother had to do so much laundry. My salary barely covered the soap costs.” Needless to say the technology has come a long way since then.

In the future Hankook Tyre will be bringing in a whole new range of exciting new products to the marketplace – for example, the new ‘Ventus S1 evo2’ which has already won a 2011 iF Product Design Award. This product was judged on several criteria such as design quality, choice of materials, environmental impact, safety and degree of innovation. The Ventus Evo2 features several leading edge innovations such as triple layer tread blocks that actually increase the tyre’s traction as they wear down. This tyre also boasts a new and impressive tread pattern that creates air turbulence on its surface that whisks away heat. This tyre is made with a new high styrene polymer compound that will reduce rolling resistance therefore cutting back CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.

Recently Hankook Tyre has begun expansion into New South Wales with new distribution centres through YCH Logistics. The company is also taking over distribution in Victoria, exemplifying its growth strategy of implementing national distribution. Hankook Australia’s ultimate goal is to be the number one tyre manufacturer amongst independent dealers, by consistently providing top-drawer customer service along with a fantastic product. One of the key drivers for success will be the careful consideration of any feedback provided to the company’s customer care agents from its many customers.

Along with the task of gaining new ground in the outback, Hankook Tyre has always worked hard to offer original equipment to major players in the automotive industry, starting with Hyundai and Kia then branching overseas to VW in Mexico by 1991. In 1995, even OPEL, which has been making automobiles since 1899, started purchasing tyres from Hankook. All along however, the OE team had its eyes on the “Big-Boys” which were the United States auto makers; although it was originally a challenge for the team to even set up a meeting in 1999, after years of campaigning Hankook secured a spare tire contract for the Ford Focus. This led to another contract for ground tires on Ford’s F150 Pickup Truck. “Since then,” states Paul, “Hankook has snowballed its OE supply to a range of automobile manufacturers, which include the likes of Toyota, Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Holden, Hyundai, Renault and Volkswagen.” The relationships formed with these manufacturers are key to Hankook’s rapid international expansion and strong reputation in the industry.

A recent benchmark in Hankook’s history was reached after it announced its 2011 second quarter sales reached KRW1.58 trillion which is a 21.0 per cent increase on the same period last year. The company’s second quarter operating profit was KRW110.7 billion. These record-breaking figures were the result of Hankook Tyre’s diversification of markets, in conjunction with its continuing efforts in research and development. Recent 70th anniversary celebrations, investments into new plants in China and Indonesia, and the company’s sponsorship of the German-based DTM motor racing championship were all positive events that directly influenced these growth figures and helped to further raise the company’s profile on the world stage. Asia Pacific sales in the second quarter grew by 43.7 per cent while sales growth in Europe was up 49.8 per cent. The company’s sales in North America grew 36.0 per cent and in Russia it skyrocketed a whopping 96.6 per cent. A major influence on this second quarter growth is attributed to increased sales of ‘Ultra High Performance Tires’ (UHP). European drivers bought 89.6 per cent more UHP tires than in 2010’s second quarter, while 43.6 per cent more UHP tires were sold in North America and 52.5 per cent more were sold in Asia Pacific regions. Demand for these UHP tires by OE Manufacturers outside Korea rose by 90 per cent as well over the same period.

In Australia however, the market is increasingly becoming saturated with new economy brand tyres with lower price tags and greater competition from other established tyre makers. Competing in this market is proving to bring a whole new volume of challenges but, “we have the right strategies – and people – in place to succeed and we are winning the battle,” says CEO Paul Park.

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September 26, 2018, 10:02 AM AEST