Southeastern states on Hankook Tire’s short list

A driver tests the rolling resistance of Hankook's Ventus S1 evo2 tires. A Hankook executive said the company has three Southeastern states on the short list for a manufacturing facility. (Photo/Hankook Tire)
A driver tests the rolling resistance of Hankook's Ventus S1 evo2 tires. A Hankook executive said the company has three Southeastern states on the short list for a manufacturing site. (Photo/Hankook Tire)

By Chuck Crumbo
ccrumbo@scbiznews.com
Published Sept. 11, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. — S.C. Department of Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said it’s “delightful” to hear Hankook Tire has South Carolina on the company’s short list as a future manufacturing site.

During the company’s media day event last week in Seoul, South Korea, Hankook Tire Worldwide President and CEO Hyun Shick Cho disclosed the company’s expansion plans.

“We are in talks with three U.S. states — Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia — to build a plant, and we will decide the final site by the end of this year,” Cho said.

Hitt declined to comment on specifics regarding Hankook’s expansion plans.

“I will say it’s always delightful to hear manufacturing leadership talking about looking at South Carolina,” Hitt said before leaving for this week’s 65th International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany.

Hankook Tire Worldwide President and CEO Hyun Shick Cho with Hankook Tyre Australia managing director Paul Park at the company’s warehouse near Sydney. (Photo/Hankook Tire)
Hankook Tire Worldwide President and CEO Hyun Shick Cho (left) with Hankook Tyre Australia managing director Paul Park at the company’s warehouse near Sydney. (Photo/Hankook Tire)

“We have become a place to look, and we are getting a lot of looks,” Hitt said. “You don’t land everyone. You land more than your share, we hope. To hear any manufacturing leader say they’re looking at South Carolina is music to my ears.”

Hitt, along with S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley are leading a contingent of staffers to meet with automotive executives in Germany, including major tire makers.

Seung Hwa Suh, Hankook Tire’s chief, told Tire Business in a follow-up interview that the company is looking at land in the Southeast.

“The proposals from different states (are) almost similar,” Suh said. “We are looking at actual land — which is a better selection and which is not so good.”

Picking the right site is crucial, Suh told Tire Business, adding that once the company makes the decision it plans to stay. Hankook needs a new facility to meet growing demand from the company’s customers, mostly automotive assembly facilities in North America.

The U.S. facility, expected to begin production in 2015, would produce up to 10 million tires annually, according to trade journal reports.

Some of Hankook’s biggest customers in the region include South Korea-based Kia Motor Corp., which has a 2 million-square-foot plant in West Point, Ga., near the Alabama border.

Hankook also is an original equipment supplier to South Korea-headquartered Hyundai, which has a plant in Montgomery, Ala.

In addition, the company provides tires to the three German luxury car makers — Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. The company also supplies tires to Volkswagen, Ford Motor Co., and General Motors.

Another prominent Hankook customer in the region is Discount Tire, which has a 200,000 square-foot distribution facility in Fairburn, Ga., about 15 miles southwest of Atlanta. Hankook also has a distribution center in Tennessee.

The Southeastern U.S. has been fertile ground for landing tire manufacturing projects. Earlier this year, Japan-based Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd., announced plans to invest $300 million in West Point, Miss., plant that will produce 1 million tires annually for trucks and busses.

Yokohama expects to launch production in October 2015.

Meanwhile, South Carolina is poised to become the No. 1 tire-making state when expansion projects of Michelin, Bridgestone, and Continental Tire begin production.

In South Carolina, Michelin is expanding its Lexington plant and building a new plant in Anderson. Bridgestone’s expansion of its Graniteville facilities is nearing completion, and Continental Tire is building a 1 million-square-foot plant in Sumter.

Both Michelin North America and Continental Tire the Americas are headquartered in South Carolina. Bridgestone Americas is based in Nashville, Tenn.

Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-726-7542.

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