LAS VEGASHankook Tire Co. Ltd. has developed an entry-level brand, dubbed Laufenn, that it plans to introduce to the U.S. market next year alongside its signature Hankook brand.
Laufenn is considered a relatively complete brand, launching with five lines, starting with an all-season touring tire and comprising high-performance, all-terrain and highway-terrain sport utility/light vehicle and winter passenger fitments, the company disclosed at a press conference in Las Vegas Nov. 5.
Hankook intends to sell the brand globally eventually, said Hyun Bum Cho, chief marketing officer and chief corporate management officer of South Korea's Hankook Tire, who is credited with driving the initiative to create a second brand. Laufenn will launch in the U.S. starting in the first half of 2015.
The brand is being manufactured initially and exclusively at Hankook's plant in Bekasi, Indonesia. That decision will allow Hankook to avoid problems with the possible anti-dumping tariffs/countervailing duties that the U.S. is considering against Chinese-sourced tires.
Having a second brandas most of the world's other major tire makers havewill help the company position the Hankook brand more effectively as its premium brand and help it position Hankook more competitively among other Tier I brands, Mr. Cho said.
The name Laufenn is derived from the German word laufen, which means to run, Hankook said, and will be promoted with the brand slogan Journey in Style.
The company will market the brand as a sensible choice for each driver's unique driving experience, according to Shawn Denlein, senior vice president of sales for Hankook Tire America Corp., by combining practical value with solid fundamentals, stable performance and style.
Laufenn offers a range of quality products that fit a variety of lifestyle needs through timely performance upgrades and continued investment, the tire maker said.
The Laufenn lines will be priced below Hankook lines, Mr. Denlein said, but specific pricing guidelines were not disclosed. The firm's executives also declined to comment on how it will choose which dealers will handle the line.
The brand's five fitments initially will be the: S FIT AS, ultra-high-performance, all-season passenger; G FIT AS, all-season touring; X FIT HT and AT sport utility vehicle/light trucks; highway-terrain and all-terrain, respectively; and I FIT Ice, winter passenger, studdable.
The brand's offerings feature a range of cutting-edge technologies, including jointless nylon band overlays and belt-edge wraps, according to the firm's literature.
Laufenn is designed to meet the diverse needs of U.S. drivers, and we are proud to offer this new brand first in the U.S. market, said Byeong Jin Lee, president, Hankook Tire America Corp. Laufenn represents the smart choice from a trusted tire company, with quality, value and style to satisfy consumers.
Hankook intends to roll out the brand to its key markets in North America, Latin America and Asia Pacific and eventually to Europe as well.
With the launch of the Laufenn brand, Hankook will phase out use of the Kingstar entry-level brand it introduced in 2012. In addition, Hankook will transition its Aurora brand to medium truck fitments only, Mr. Denlein said.
Hankook's plant in Bekasi, opened in 2013, is rated at 6 million tires a year, about three-fourths of which are earmarked for export, particularly for North America and emerging markets in the ASEAN region and Middle East, the company said at that time.
The Bekasi plant is ISO/TS 16949 certified, a value related to the plant's overall operations, ensuring products are produced in ecofriendly, safe environments to improve the quality of life for both employees and customers.