Hankook Tire: No Longer Anonymous

A Korean tire manufacturer wants you to know the ‘Hankook Tire’ name.

You’ve heard of Firestone, Goodyear and Michelin, but what about Hankook Tire? Maybe you have and simply just didn’t make the connection.

This company, based in South Korea, is the seventh-largest tire manufacturer in the world (based on 2022 revenue), deriving 20 percent of its business from original equipment manufacturers and the rest from customers seeking replacement tires.

And it is with replacement tires that the Hankook name may have surfaced for you, especially if your tire retailer includes Hankook among your choices. You may have also noticed the manufacturer’s prominently displayed ad in New York City’s Times Square or as the official tire for Major League Baseball (MLB) in 2023 with various marketing materials at MLB ballparks.

Founding and Growth

Hankook originated as Chosun Tire Co in 1941. Over the years, your familiarity with the Hankook brand may not have revealed its transformation from a small manufacturer to a titan within the tire industry. The founder’s vision was evident in the company’s advancements and the decision to rebrand as Hankook Tire & Technology, reflecting its commitment to innovation.

Global Presence and Headquarters

With headquarters nestled in the bustling heart of Seoul, South Korea, Hankook solidified its status as a formidable industry force. The brand’s global presence extends far beyond its birthplace, as it actively manages operations in more than 180 countries.

This wide-reaching influence underscores the company’s stature as a central figure in the tire manufacturing sector.

Where Are Hankook Tires Made?

Hankook tire manufacturing Tennessee

Hankook Tire has grown into a globally recognized brand, with state-of-the-art manufacturing plants spanning several continents to meet the rising demand.

Asian Facilities

In Asia, Hankook operates advanced production facilities. South Korea, as the home base, has significant manufacturing capabilities, fundamental in the company’s success. Nearby, a factory in West Java, Indonesia supports their efforts by focusing on extensive production needs.

China also houses key plants pivotal for regional supply, while the company has spread its reach to countries like Japan to ensure a comprehensive presence in the Asian market.

Expansion in Europe and America

In Germany, Hankook continues to invest, aiming to leverage German engineering excellence. They also maintain a strong footprint throughout Europe with manufacturing plants, including a facility in Hungary.

Expansion efforts have not neglected North America, where you can find a technologically sophisticated plant in Clarksville, TN in the U.S. This reflects their dedication to serving the North American market. Hankook even extends its capabilities to Mexico, pushing the brand’s outreach across the continent.

Hankook Tire Manufacturing

Hankook summer tires

You will discover that Hankook Tire’s approach to manufacturing integrates cutting-edge technology with an unwavering commitment to quality. With multiple factories globally, their production network is designed to deliver high-quality tires that ensure durability and safety.

Technology and Innovation

At the heart of Hankook Tire manufacturing lies a dedication to innovation. Your understanding of their technological prowess is underscored by the factory in Indonesia, which represents the company’s commitment to advanced research and development.

This facility is part of a global network that pushes the boundaries of what your vehicle’s tires can accomplish.

Quality Assurance and Warranty

When you purchase Hankook tires, you’re also investing in quality assurance and a substantial warranty. Every tire produced at Hankook’s factories, such as those in South Korea and the United States, undergoes rigorous testing to ensure that you receive a product synonymous with high durability.

This stringent quality control process is why you can trust the warranty offered with their tires—it represents the company’s confidence in the durability and performance of their products.

Natural & Synthetic

If you are under the impression that tires are chiefly made from natural rubber, then you’re mistaken. Natural rubber is used, but SBR, bromobutyl, polybutylene and EPDM may also be used, synthetic rubbers that are mixed and milled with other ingredients until the right consistency is made.

Yes, there are some similarities between tire making and cake baking — you need the right ingredients and percentages thereof to produce a finished product that won’t go flat when it exits the oven.

The Hankook tour underscored the importance of tire safety and vehicle control. To this day, when you purchase a new car, the car manufacturer extends its warranty to every vehicle component except the tires.

Your tires are warranted solely by the tire manufacturer, but the relationship between the car company and the tire company is the same as you would find between the automaker and a suspension supplier, for example.

With tires, a separate umbrella of protection is offered directly from the tire manufacturer, an original equipment supplier that is chosen by the car manufacturer.

Renting an ice rink helps engineers to see just how well tires grip ice. Other tests include spewing water on a track and measuring hydroplaning.

Manufacturing Guidelines

The most important takeaway from my visit with the Hankook Tire people is that there is much more engineering that goes into tire construction then you might guess.

Federal regulations, industry guidelines and company operating procedures are followed to ensure that the finished product conforms to these stipulations. That’s critically important, because tires not only hold up an important consumer investment, but can affect the lives of people riding inside of these vehicles.

Akron, OH Technical Center

The Akron Technical Center is all about engineering, research, rubber compounding and testing. Why Akron? Well, Akron was once known as the “tire manufacturing capital of the world,” but has long since seen its industry flee overseas.

What’s left are several research centers and Goodyear’s global headquarters. Notably, the University of Akron is a prime research hub for tire manufacturing, enabling industry minds and academia to collaborate.

Hankook says that a number of its new workers come from schools such as Akron, students who complete a cooperative education program and are hired upon graduation.

Tire design is conceived by utilizing proprietary or industry software. Not until engineers have determined the concept’s viability is the design forwarded to another department for a full scale mockup.

Our comprehensive tour allowed us to see the inner sanctum of Hankook’s U.S. research and development. No cameras were allowed, but much was shown, including proprietary equipment that runs tires through a series of tests including one device that tests a tire’s ability to withstand temperatures ranging from minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

These tests are run by engineers to help determine how tires behave on the road including measuring for noise, vibration and harshness.

We learned that when a car manufacturer considers a tire for its vehicles, the automaker works closely with Hankook Tire to design one to its specifications. This involves starting the process off by using in-house software to design the tire, followed by a review from Hankook engineers before a prototype is built at ATC.

Once a design is determined, then that information is transferred to South Korea and a set of ready for testing tires is shipped stateside for automaker inspection.

It takes about two or three cycles of development to get the right tires made before a final design is locked down. The final design follows extensive track testing to ensure that the tires meet the car manufacturer’s exacting requirements.

Once a design passes engineering scrutiny, it passes to an “artist” who designs and cuts the tire accordingly. That design eventually finds its way to South Korea where a set of road ready tires are shipped back to the United States for testing.

Original Equipment Partnerships

Hankook has established prominent Original Equipment (OE) partnerships with leading automotive brands. These collaborations ensure that various car models come fitted with Hankook tires straight from the factory, demonstrating the brand’s dedication to quality and performance.

Automotive Brand Collaborations

The company’s reputation in the automotive industry is bolstered by their OE partnerships with high-profile car manufacturers. BMW, Audi, Ford, Chevrolet, and Lincoln are some of the notable brands that equip their vehicles with Hankook tires.

Steve Cooper

Leave a Comment