DEARBORN, Mich.-Ford Motor Co. has approved Hankook Tire Manufacturing Co. Ltd. as a global tire source, a Ford spokeswoman said Oct. 18. Ford has not awarded the South Korea-based tire company a contract yet. But Hankook has shown the capacity and willingness to provide original equipment tires to Ford in North America and Europe as well as Asia, she said.
``We are very, very happy to hear (about the approval),'' said Wayne Jung, marketing manager for Hankook Tire America Corp., the company's U.S. subsidiary.
Ford's North American tire suppliers currently are Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., Goodyear, Michelin North America Inc. and Continental General Tire Inc.
Ford said it wants new tire sources because demand has escalated under its Ford 2000 reorganization program.
The approval puts Hankook ``in the game,'' said Ray Labuda, vice president of tire technology for subsidiary Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. The company now is trying to get its tires qualified on several of Ford's future platforms. But those approvals probably won't happen for another year or two.
Any tire contract with Ford will be fulfilled by Hankook's facilities in South Korea, according to officials. Hankook opened a new plant Aug. 1 in Kumsan, South Korea, which will have a capacity of 60,000 passenger tires per day, Mr. Labuda said. It also has modernized its tire factory in Taejeon, South Korea, giving it a capacity of about 21 million units per year.
One key to becoming an approved supplier to Ford was Hankook's new technology center near Akron, he said. Hankook also has a technology center in South Korea and plans to open a third in Europe.