DAEJEON ― Hankook Tire, the nation’s largest tire manufacturer, on Tuesday reaffirmed its ambition to become a “top-tier” company in the global market as it announced its decision to break ground on a 266.6 billion won ($300 million) research and development complex.
The new facility, dubbed the “Hankook Technodome,” will be located on a 96,328-square-meter site in Daejeon, some 140 kilometers from Seoul. When it is completed by 2016, it will be the company’s sixth R&D center globally, the company said.
“The mobility industry is facing a paradigm shift. This new facility will pave the way for us to transform from a fast follower to a first mover,” said Hankook Tire vice chairman and CEO Suh Seung-hwa at the ceremony held on the construction site Tuesday.
|Hankook Tire vice chairman and CEO Suh Seung-hwa (center), chief marketing officer Cho Hyun-bum (third from left) and other company and city officials attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the tire maker’s new R&D center in Daejeon on Tuesday. (Hankook Tire)|
The new complex, consisting of a large-scale R&D center, a residential building for employees and other work and refreshment facilities, has been designed by British architect Norman Foster, whose latest works include Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino, California.
With the completion of the new R&D center, the company also plans to increase its R&D workforce in Korea from the current 600 to 1,000 in the coming years.
While its global R&D centers focus more on studying local weather and road conditions, the new facilities will pour resources into securing the company’s own original technology to develop new tire products that improve the fuel ratings of vehicles and reduce CO2 emissions, as well as other future-oriented tires such as no-air tires that use flexible materials, the CEO said.
The new complex is the culmination of Hankook Tire’s staggering growth over the past decade. The company is currently ranked seventh in the global market, with its sales exceeding 7 trillion won in 2013.
Under the company’s balanced growth strategy, its sales come from around the world: 28.7 percent from Europe, 21.4 percent from China, 20.6 percent from Korea, and 9.8 percent from the Middle East, Africa and the Asia-Pacific.
Especially in the all-important German and Chinese markets, it boasts the largest market shares.
In recent years, the company has secured deals with the top three German luxury carmakers ― BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi ― to supply original equipment tires for their flagship models.
As part of the company’s upscale push to become a big name in the industry, it is also considering supplying tires to prestigious motor sports such as Formula One.
“We are ready both financially and technologically,” said Cho Hyun-bum, chief marketing officer and second son of the company chairman Cho Yang-rai.
“Supplying to Formula One is also about politics. We are gauging the right timing to reduce the risks.”
He added that the company will invest 4 to 5 percent of its global sales into R&D efforts each year until 2020.
By Lee Ji-yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org)