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Hankook Tire’s [Winter i*cept] in Japanese market...
Green light for Hankook Tire’s Winter i*cept in Japanese market Receives high marks for excellent acceleration, braking and cornering at Aomori ice rink drive test Hankook Tire held a two-day ice rink drive test for its Winter i*cept tires at Hachinohe City’s Ice Rink Arena in Aomori Prefecture from October 18th ~ 19th, 2005. Sixteen outstanding winter tire dealers from the northeastern region were invited to witness the performance and get a first hand experience of Winter i*cept. Also on hand were a total of 11 Hankook Tire staff, seven from Seoul headquarters and research center, and four from Hankook’s Japanese subsidiary, including a sales engineer. While the staff appeared slightly nervous with the first-ever performance test in the ice rink, invited guests seemed excited and happy to be at the rink. After a product introduction, research center staff offered customers a chance to personally experience the quality of Hankook tires in acceleration, braking and cornering. First, staff members took vehicles outfitted with Winter i*cept tires on a test run. Afterwards, customers accompanied them on a ride. Later on, customers were also given a chance to personally test drive the tires. In comparison tests, the i*cept tire was first compared with other Hankook products and then with a competitor’s (Japan-made)tire. The vehicle and tire size used in the test drive was a Toyota Allion and 195/65R15 respectively. In Japan, demand for PCR (passenger car radial) winter tires is around 15 million units per year or 30 % of total replacement PCR demand. Particularly in the northeastern region, demand for winter tires far outnumbers that for summer tires at a ratio of 7:3 (south-central region 3:7). Japan’s winter tire market is characterized by tires featuring a square-shoulder tread pattern. They are also made with soft rubber and plenty of siping for better traction. Japanese makers are also known for their competitive marketing tools such as Bridgestone’s B/S form rubber, Yokohama’s black absorption rubber , Dunlop’s Tetra Peak compound and Toyo’s embedding of walnut shell microbits. With its demands for specific performance features on seasonal tires, the Japanese market was considered impenetrable for imported tire makers. Therefore, it is significant that Hankook Tire began to capture this once-impregnable market with the launch of Icebear W604 in 2002. Sales of Hankook’s winter tires doubled with the development of exclusive tread patterns and the company began to gain brand recognition in Japan. Four years after developing the W604, Hankook Tire unveiled two new Winter i*cept products. The recent ice rink driving test demonstrated the company’s confidence in their quality. At the start of the event, the staff was still uncertain about the success of the test. However they began to feel better as the test drives produced excellent results. In a performance assessment survey, participants gave an overwhelmingly higher rating to Winter i*cept compared to other Hankook products or Japanese tires. Dealers requested an early supply of the tires in all sizes. One dealer who had earlier attended another driving test conducted by a Japanese tire maker remarked that Hankook tires performed far better. The event and related ice rink test have been made into a video and will soon be distributed as a sales tool. For your information, Winter i*cept was developed by Hankook Tire after two years of research and development. It uses a special, ultra-strong fiber with a fingerprintshaped tread pattern to enhance grip and braking performance by 20% compared to existing products. Nine different sizes have been released on the market as of November 2005 with plans for more sizes in 2006.