Korean Tire Makers Expand Production in the U.S.
Seoul, South Korea-based Kumho Tire is expected to begin operations at its new plant in Macon, Georgia, within the next few weeks. Construction of the new facility – Kumho’s first manufacturing plant outside Asia – began 14 months ago.
The fully automated facility is as big as 13 football fields and is expected to produce four-million passenger and light truck tires a year when fully operational at a rate of one tire every 36 seconds.
The U.S. is the biggest foreign market for Kumho, accounting for a full 20 percent of its total sales.
The new, $424 million plant’s primary customers will be auto makers Kia and Hyundai, both of which operate production facilities in the U.S. Southeast. The proximity of the new plant to those facilities “is expected to reduce transport costs and time sharply,” company officials said.
Kumho’s major competitor is Hankook Tire, which has said it will start tire production later this year at a new plant in Clarksville, Tennessee, that will have an annual production capacity of 5.5 million auto tires.
When completed in October, the facility will be Hankook’s fourth overseas plant after those currently operating in China, Indonesia and Hungary. The Korean company generates about 20 percent of its sales from the U.S. and hopes the plant will “sharply raise its market share in the U.S.,” according to a statement.
Hankook increased its share of the U.S. market to 4.3 percent in 2015 with the company saying it expects to outpace the industry this year by aiming for double-digit growth. Sales were $1.2 billion in the U.S and just under $100 million in Canada in 2015.
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