Call it uncharacteristic of Kumho Tire USA.
But the Fontana, Calif.-based tire maker felt it was time to do as other tire makers do and make a lot of noise about its products.
Tire-squealing noise, that is, as journalists from 19 trade and enthusiast publications took to the test track at Tire Rack's South Bend headquarters and pushed Kumho's new Ecsta MX, STX and V700 tires to their limits in what was Kumho's first ride-and-drive event. The excursion was jointly hosted by Kumho and Tire Rack, which also showcased its new 520,000-sq.-ft. headquarters and distribution center. (See related story about Tire Rack on page 1.)
The South Korean company-which unveiled the high-performance Ecsta tire lines last fall during the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA)/International Tire Expo (ITE) in Las Vegas-recently made those Ecsta products available to the market in a wide range of sizes. And Kumho is in the middle of a marketing campaign to build brand awareness and support tire dealers.
That campaign, which involved the media ride-and-drive, includes a free pair of Momo sunglasses with the purchase of a set of Ecsta MS, STX or 712 tires. A national print and TV advertising campaign highlighting Kumho's ultra-high performance tires also has been under way in consumer and trade publications and on several cable stations-ESPN, CNN and Discovery Channel, just to name a few.
Kumho also is supporting the Momo promotion with an event merchandising kit for dealers that includes counter cards, redemption forms, a tire display stand, tire insert, modular newspaper clip art and a radio spot.
At the Tire Rack's testing grounds, journalists drove Lexus IS 300s equipped with the MX, the BFGoodrich T/AKO and the Michelin Pilot Sport. The group also drove Acura RSXs, Ford Expeditions, BMW 330Cis, and Audi Quattros equipped either with the STX, MX, or a comparative brand, such as the Ecsta Supra, Ecsta KH11 and the Goodyear Wrangler RT/S. The V700 came equipped on BMW Z3 sports cars.
Kyu Cho, president of Kumho Tire USA, told Tire Business that after experiencing a 32-percent sales jump in 2001, Kumho is being more aggressive this year in launching new tires and demonstrating its technology in order to grow even more.
He said the tire maker was able to see huge sales gains last year because dealers can get wider margins on Kumho brands than other flag brands and therefore sold more Kumho products.
The Ecsta MX has V and Z speed ratings and is available in 26 sizes ranging from P205/40R17 to P245/40R20 and for wheels from 6.5 to 11.5 inches wide, the company said.
The Ecsta STX is a VR-rated tire and marks Kumho's entry into the market for 22- and 23-inch tires for light trucks and sport-utility vehicles. It is being offered in 20 sizes, from P255/60R15 to P305/40R23.
The Ecsta V700 carries V and Z speed ratings and is available in 19 sizes ranging from P175/60R13 to P285/30R18. ``We plan to continue producing the Victoracer (racing tires) because it has only five sizes in common with the Ecsta V700,'' said Rick Brennan, Kumho's high-performance brand manager. ``We'll offer racers a choice of two different competition tires and nearly 30 different sizes.''
He added that Kumho also plans to debut a 24-inch Ecsta STX tire during this year's SEMA/ITE trade show.