"We still want to maintain a cool, hip, edgy brand, because that's who we are and what I believe separates us from some of the others," Mr. Hoit said. "In order for us to continue to grow we have to reach more applications, more consumers, so we have to become more broadline. But we don't want to lose our image."
Mr. Brennan noted that maintaining that balance is less about the types of tires it makes and more about branding.
"As you expand into the more common use tires, the way we talk about ourselves, the way we present ourselves, the things we do create more of a vision of who we are, not exactly all of the things we have," he continued.
"It's real difficult to make a tire for a Kia Rio that is wild and crazy and gives an edgy look, but the company itself can still be that. That's exactly what we have to offer."
The company has expanded its online presence as well, enhancing its cutting-edge image.
In 2013 Falken took a special interest in establishing "brand voices," looking at various avenues to connect with fans — whether it be Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter — and making each one different.
"Each one actually has a completely different voice," said James Yim, creative manager for Falken. "Instead of rehashing materials across five, six, seven platforms, we dedicated resources and we gave what we call a brand voice to each one, because someone might be a fan of us on Pinterest and doesn't even use Facebook. Somebody might be a fan of us on Twitter and they're not interested in Google+…. So we separated those identities and give people reasons to follow each different one."
Falken's social media presence helps to make it especially attractive to a younger audience, Mr. Yim said.
"Connecting with your enthusiasts, making it possible for them to engage us and talk to real people that work at the company," he said. "I think it's a huge value in today's market. It's also something we pride ourselves with—capturing a younger demographic. There are many marketing partners of ours that align themselves with the Falken brand because we have such a young demographic. Their demographic is just getting older and older, but the younger demographic is highly influential, they're not brand loyal yet, so being able to leverage that is key and social media is a way to do it well."
Working in Falken's favor is the fact that the performance market itself is becoming more mainstream.
"UHP is going to continue to grow because you have everyday cars coming now with higher speed-rated tires, which are categorized as UHP," Mr. Brennan said. "You see new vehicle sales going up, which is putting new types of vehicles in the marketplace. CUVs for example will change the face of light truck over the next five years."
At the 2013 Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas, Falken will debut its Ziex ZE950 all-season HP/UHP tire, replacing the company's ZE912. The tire will be a "power line" for Falken, available in 95 sizes.
Mr. Brennan said one of the main reasons for the growing UHP segment is simply that modern vehicles are capable of reaching higher speeds.
"You've got smaller displacement engines able to put out more horsepower, so you see the absolute speed capability of the vehicle increasing, which means the carmaker needs to put on a tire that can match the speed of the vehicle and provide everything it needs from a liability point of view and a safety point of view," he said.
"The tire you make now has to have the speed capability, but it still needs to give the mileage, the comfort, the noise (reduction), the all-season traction. From the tire maker's point of view…now we have to make tires that are more mainstream but have the same speed that the old UHP tires did. It's more pressure on us to be able to make that tire."
For tire makers, this means it's necessary to have better knowledge about what the consumer really needs. And, Mr. Brennan said, with sky-high prices, what consumers need are longer-lasting tires.
"He's demanding mileage even if he still demands performance. He's demanding the tire give all-season traction, because, 'If I buy an all-season tire, damn it, I want to be able to get out of my driveway when it snows.' So you're gonna see growth in products that really offer a wide range of performance for the vehicle and the driver that's got it," he said.
Mr. Brennan said mileage warranties on performance tires with higher speed ratings will continue to rise, while all-season tires will begin to come with more winter traction capability.
"Making sure you put in the right mix of performance, whether it's got a T-speed rating or a W-speed rating, is the key to the future—making sure that tire size that fits on that vehicle gives everything it needs to give," he said.