Cold winters and your occasional Nor'easter snow storms have impressed on engineers and executives from Hankook Tire America Corp. the need for all-season performance tires that can handle ice and snow.
But rather than start with the tread design and work out, Hankook's engineers built from the carcass out an ultra-high performance tire that can get a motorist home in snow and ice but still deliver in the summer, according to Bill Bainbridge, Hankook's marketing director. Hence, the Ventus V4ES was born, which Hankook displayed at the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas.
``It's a little bit different positioning than what our competitors are doing,'' he told Tire Business. ``It's not an all-season performance tire. It's an ultra-high performance tire with all-season capabilities. Positioning is everything.''
Mr. Bainbridge said Hankook has been developing the Ventus V4ES for quite some time to be a next-generation UHP tire that's as good as any summer UHP tire. He said Hankook wanted to differ from its competitors' all-season, high-performance tires by first creating a UHP tire, then making the tread and compounding aggressive to the point it can handle any weather condition.
As a result, Hankook is advertising the Ventus V4ES on the Weather Channel with the tagline ``Weather or not...technology.'' Mr. Bainbridge said Hankook also has created for the Ventus V4ES launch its largest point-of-sale kit ever, with ad materials, counter-top displays, product displays and banners. He said the company also will hold a sweepstakes where consumers who buy a set of Ventus tires will win a travel package to a luxury Four Seasons resort. The drawing will be held in May.
``One of the keys for our brand and our future and part of our '05 marketing effort is to get a little more recognition of point-of-sale,'' Mr. Bainbridge explained. ``We've got a lot of dealers that have been selling our products, but we haven't been good at giving them solid merchandising support.'' Now, he said Hankook's POS kit gives all dealers useful tools regardless of the size of their dealerships.
Already, he added, Hankook's dealers are ordering the Ventus V4ES, which will arrive in their stores in January for some of the winter selling season and in time for spring. He noted that the tire ``should be sold and marketed equally well when the weather is fine as when the weather isn't because it is an ultra-high performance tire first.'' The tire is made to fit moderate to luxury touring coupes and sedans.
A ``positive departure from the past,'' Mr. Bainbridge said, is rolling out 16 sizes of the Ventus V4ES immediately instead of starting with five sizes and adding more in a few months. ``The dealers I think are pretty happy about that,'' he said.
The W- and V-rated Ventus V4ES features special silica-blend compounds to deliver performance in all driving conditions, Hankook said. For winter traction, kerfs applied to the tread at the appropriate density yield solid grip on snow and ice while side slots connected to wide grooves enhance water drainage.
The tire maker said a firm central rib and long, central interlock button provide a more comfortable ride and reduce noise. The tire has a UTQG rating of 420 AA and is available in sizes ranging from 16- to 20-inch rim diameters.
Hankook displayed at the SEMA Show 26- and 28-inch versions of its Ventus ST RH06, a high-performance, luxury SUV tire. Mr. Bainbridge said the 26-inch Ventus ST is in production now and will be available in January while he said he wasn't sure about when the 28-inch will be rolled out because that size will have a ``very limited run.''
The tire maker also introduced three truck and bus radial tires for applications ranging from short-haul to long distance trucking. The AM02C all-position, wide-base tire features a durable tread compound and four-belt structure, the company said. Its shoulders offer added sidewall protection while applied tie bands prevent irregular wear and reduce noise.
The AM06 is an on- and off-road all position tire for on- and off-road applications and is built for aggressive traction in all driving conditions. The tread design expels stones and extends tire life, according to Hankook.
The DM04 is an off-road drive position tire engineered for off-road conditions. Hankook described the tire as a drive-axle traction radial with deep, wide treads for high mobility. Its open shoulder construction offers agile manuevering.
Mr. Bainbridge said the truck tires will be available by mid-December.