Asked whether Hankook was considering entering the retreading business, the executives said "not at this time."
Nor is the company planning to initiate online tire selling direct to consumers, at least currently. "Like anything else we (will) watch it," Mr. Denlein said.
But he also didn't rule it out, noting that he thinks the next few years are going to be really different than previous years in the industry.
The Hankook leadership also isn't ruling out some day acquiring its own retail distribution in North America as a defensive measure, but its first priority is to focus on its strong relationship with its independent dealers, Mr. Ahn said.
Today, everybody is going to look for ways to grow in a market that is basically flat, Mr. Denlein said.
Because so many companies today are making tires, the question is "how do you make yourself different from everyone else?" Mr. Denlein asked rhetorically.
For Hankook, its strategy includes cutting edge research and development, manufacturing capacity that can meet the demands of the marketplace, logistics, a strong distribution network, and marketing that creates brand awareness.
Globally, Hankook continues to strive toward its goal of becoming the world's fifth largest tire maker by 2020 from No. 7 today. The company also wants to reach a worldwide market share of 5 percent and an EBITA of $2 billion.
In 2016, Hankook had sales of $5.7 billion while generating $950 million in operating income.
Globally Hankook is what Mr. Denlein described as economically stable. That is, its sales are relatively balanced, with 30.4 percent coming from Europe, 22.6 percent from the Americas, 19.2 percent from China, 17.4 percent from South Korea and 10.4 percent from the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.
In 2016, Hankook manufactured 103 million tires, making it the world's fifth largest tire maker in terms of production, he said. By 2020, the goal is to reach 130 million tires.
One of the ways Hankook intends to differentiate itself from the competition is through technology, Mr. Denlein said. This starts with the company's recently opened Technodome research and development center in South Korea,
Hankook spent $244 million in constructing the center, "which we believe will be the leading R&D center in our industry," Mr. Denlein said. It will have 1,100 R&D researchers working there, when fully operational.
Hankook invests 5 percent of its global sales annually in R&D, he added, and in 2015-16 spent $1.6 billion on research and development.
"So when you look at a flat basically industry, we're investing, we have a plan…," Mr. Denlein said. "We find this a time to move forward because we feel we can separate ourselves and take that next step in becoming a global top-tier brand."
Securing original equipment fitments also is a big part of Hankook's growth strategy. The company has OE fitments on 250 vehicle models from 27 car makers worldwide.
"For us, when we look at advertising, we look for branding, this is an excellent tool for us," Mr. Denlein said of the company's broad OE fitments.
In North America, Hankook is counting on the Clarksville factory to help energize efforts to expand its OE presence, especially with some of the Japanese transplant factories, Mr. Denlein and Jae Bum Park, senior vice president, told Tire Business at the 2016 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas.
Marketing is another area of focus for creating demand for Hankook products, Mr. Denlein said, noting added awareness for the company's brands in North America improved to 61 percent in 2015 from 54 percent in 2012. The goal is reach to reach 78 percent by 2020, he said.
The tire maker's marketing and advertising efforts include two television commercials that air in the U.S., motorsports and sports marketing.
Hankook garnered 5.1 million media impressions through its sponsorships of a number of Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, generating $100 million in media value in 2016, Mr. Denlein said.
The company also added nine National Basketball Association teams to its marketing mix for the 2016-17 season, in a move to keep the Hankook name out front during MLB's off season.
Hankook also will step up its support of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization nationally and looks to increase its public relations share of voice by creating stories and actions "that the press wants to grab onto," Mr. Denlein said.
With its headquarters move to Nashville, Hankook also is looking to make its presence known in its local market.
While no decisions have been made, the tire maker is considering the possibility of branding opportunities with institutions such as the Country Music Hall of Fame and/or the Grand Ole Opry, or on structures such as bridges in the city.
"The difference between us, I believe, and others is we have a goal on how to execute to be a top-tier brand," Mr. Denlein said.
"This is evident in all the investments we've made in the Technodome, our plant, OE, production, logistics…. R&D, OE, production and marketing are keys to our direction moving forward."