Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. is evaluating the feasibility of building a tire plant in Eastern Europe to serve its growing customer base in Europe.
Hankook reportedly has looked at sites in Poland, Slovak Republic and Romania, according to comments by Hankook President Cho Choong-Hwan in an interview posted on Hankook's Web site.
Europe is South Korea-based Hankook's largest export market, accounting for 22 percent, or $307 million, of the firm's sales globally in 2003, according to the tire maker's annual report. It has local sales subsidiaries in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Construction of a plant could start as early as next year, with production coming on-stream in two to three years, according to the interview.
The company did not disclose what size plant it is considering, but the reasons given are lack of capacity to keep pace with surging orders and concerns about prohibitive import duties.
Hankook exported more than 20 million tires in 2003, worth more than $700 million.
Hankook claims production capacity of more than 50 million units at plants in Daejeon and Guemsan, South Korea, and Jiaxing and Jiangsu, China.