DETROIT (March 4, 2003) — Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. has won its first North American road tire contract with a domestic car maker.
It's also taking over the spare tire contract on the Ford Escape from Bridgestone/Firestone.
Hankook has begun producing the road tires in South Korea and will ship them to the U.S. for the June vehicle launch of a 2004 model, said Andrew W. Zeisser, vice president of original equipment for Hankook Tire America Corp.
He did not say how many tire makers were named on the contract or what size tires Hankook is supplying, but did say for those sizes Hankook is the sole supplier.
Hankook gained its first spare tire contract in the U.S. in 1999 for the U.S.-produced 2000 model year Ford Focus. The agreement followed more than two years of negotiations and qualification testing.
In another month, the South Korean tire maker will take over the contract to supply another spare tire on the Ford Escape sport-utility vehicle.
Bridgestone/Firestone had been supplying the spare but asked to be de-sourced from the business as part of its break from Ford in the U.S., following the recall of its tires fitted on the Ford Explorer, said Mike Martini, vice president of original equipment consumer tire sales for Bridgestone/Firestone.
In an effort to work with Ford until the car maker could secure alternate sources for those contracts, Bridgestone/Firestone continued supplying tires for the Escape, which was launched in August 2000.
Mr. Martini would not disclose the dollar amount or exact volume of the Escape spare tire business but said it is not large volume.
Aside from the Escape contract, Bridgestone/Firestone's only other remaining U.S. supply agreement with Ford is for the Focus, Mr. Martini said. That business should be re-sourced within the first half of this year, officially ending all supply agreements between the two companies in the U.S.
Still, the two firms are trying to mend fences, the official said.
“I think there's been a lot of headway; (the two companies) are talking and trying,” he said.
Bridgestone/Firestone already has reallocated capacity formerly earmarked for the Ford OE business. “We've moved that business to the replacement market, which is booming,” Mr. Martini said.
But that's not to say the tire maker isn't also gaining new original equipment contracts, he added. “We're just not growing our (OE) share.”
Bridgestone/Firestone is the largest North American tire supplier to General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Inc.