Hankook Tire America Corp. is counting on expanded production capacity at parent company Hankook Tire Co. Ltd.'s plants in China to help it keep dealers in North America well stocked as the firm builds on a record sales performance in 2003.
And as part of a new corporate identity program aimed at making the tire maker ``more future-oriented, innovative and willing to take on any new challenge,'' its Seoul, South Korea- based parent has redesigned its corporate logo.
While declining to make specific projections for 2004, Hankook ``is off to a banner start'' this year, according to Bill Bainbridge, marketing director for the U.S. sales company. Last year Hankook Tire's sales in the U.S. grew 19 percent to $250 million.
Hankook is in the midst of expansion projects at its two plants in China, adding 3.8 million units of annual radial tire capacity at its Hankook Tire (Jiaxing) Co. Ltd. plant by year-end 2005 and 2.45 million units of annual capacity by 2007 at its Jiangsu Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. bias-ply and radial tire plant.
``Increased capacity at our new plants in China, coupled with stronger supply capabilities, have resulted in a markedly improved picture in terms of sales and in servicing our network of dealers throughout the U.S.,'' Mr. Bainbridge said. ``Our supply network is keeping pace with orders around the U.S. while keeping our distribution centers well stocked.''
The company has several new products in the pipeline, Mr. Bainbridge said, which it will start rolling out in the next 60 days.
Helping to boost sales this year will be Hankook's new original equipment contracts with Ford Motor Co. for the F-150 pickup and Econoline vans. These OE deals help boost the image of the Hankook brand in consumers' minds, Mr. Bainbridge said, and many of the firm's dealers have signed up with Ford's ``Around the Wheel'' dealer support program to supply Ford dealers with tires.
Building the brand's image is a key element in Hankook Tire America's marketing program, which involves advertising signage at selected arenas and stadiums of Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association and National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball. The latter is new to the program this year.
``This program is starting to pay dividends,'' Mr. Bainbridge said. ``Our dealers tell us they're starting to see consumers' recalling the Hankook name when they're in their stores shopping for tires.''
In line with its new logo, the company's new philosophy-dubbed ``Proactive Tireship''-is the firm's ``determination to grow with the customers, creatively taking on any challenge to emerge as one of the world's foremost tire makers in the 21st century,'' Hankook said.
More concretely, Hankook said the policy reflects ``a commitment by every employee to stay ahead of market trends and to anticipate customer needs accurately in order to be the industry leader.''
The new corporate image represents a change in corporate vision and goals and is the firm's attempt to distinguish the Hankook brand from the competition.
The new company logo features a stylized tire tread geometrically altered to suggest wings, flying, aerodynamics and speed-characteristics that symbolize dynamic movement and activity, the firm said.
The stylized tread element is orange-seen as youthful and representing technology and speed-along with the word Hankook in white italic sans serif type on a black background. The word Hankook is a blend of capital and small letters-HanKOOK-chosen to enhance legibility and project an image of products that are appropriate and reliable.
The design is crafted to project an image of a company with industry-leading technology, progressive thinking, innovative and specialized technical capabilities, passion, sophistication, vitality and multi-national operations, Hankook said.
The new design replaces the one Hankook has used for a number of years that uses the images of two tires, one overlapping the other, as the double letter ``o'' in the name.
The new logo will debut in the U.S. April 4 at an exhibition baseball game in Philadelphia's new Citizen Bank Park as part of Hankook Tire America's sports marketing program, Mr. Bainbridge said. It will be phased in via other media and venues on a rolling basis.