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Falken: "Italian Style"!

Sports tires

Today all Falken products fall in the high performance segment and owe much of their success to the commitment of the Japanese brand to motorsports

Paolo Ferrini

A relatively new name in the tire industry worldwide, and even more so on the Italian market, Falken, which belongs 100% to the Sumitomo Rubber Industry (SRI), is gradually gaining ground on the international stage, and has become the reference brand in the tire division of the large Japanese group.

Falken’s creation dates back to 1983, when the Sumitomo Rubber Industries group (30,000 employees and several factories around the world) launched it for the first time on the Japanese market, and, two years later, in North America. Since then, Falken has been progressively earning, thanks to its commitment to motorsports, a growing reputation, especially among customers of high and ultra high-performance tires.

Nowadays, Falken appears as original equipment on a few Ford, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen models and boasts a complete range of second line tires for cars, SUVs, pickups and trucks. All Falken tires meet the ISO 9001 standard as well as 1400 and 16949 standards and are designed and developed to provide great driving pleasure along with a good quality/price ratio, effectively summarized in the new slogan "On The Pulse of High Technology and Performance" found also in the renewed logo, which now includes motorsports colors.


In Europe since 1988 

Falken reaches Europe in 1988 following the creation of its direct subsidiary Falken Tyre Europe based in Offenbach / Main, Germany, and receives wide recognition thanks to the launch of its Sincera tire range. But it is only in 1993 that the brand makes a decisive move on the European market through the Ohtsu Tire and Rubber Industries (Osaka company, also part of the Sumitomo Group, which, at the time, controlled Falken) that creates a marketing platform for the promotion of new high-performance tires. Today all Falken products fall in the high performance segment and owe much of their success to the commitment of the Japanese brand to motorsports. Tires for buses and coaches, trucks, vans and site machines once sold as Ohtsu are now all produced under the brand Falken.


An Italian “hub” 

Falken, currently present in 33 European countries, is still a relative newcomer on the Italian market, thanks to national importers such as Energy Tyres. The new project, which saw the light in 2013 as a joint initiative between Astigiana Gomme, Farnese Pneumatici, Global Tyres (merged earlier this year in Farnese) and Tagliabue Gomme Gross. What makes Energy Tyres different from a traditional importer is that is acts as a '"hub" with the task of coordinating and planning all commercial activities as well as the image of the Falken brand in the country. Besides helping in the management and development of the network, which now boasts over 350 Falken Points, Energy Tyres is striving to develop, among other things, a strong sense of belonging to the brand also through activities and value-added services that go beyond a mere product, such as the availability, at favorable conditions, of Volkswagen Up courtesy cars for end customers. The three partners, besides receiving, storing and distributing tires in their assigned areas (Astigiana in the North-West, Tagliabue in Lombardy, Triveneto and Farnese in Romagna as well as Center-South Italy and major islands), are also in charge of developing and increasing the Falken Point network.

But for now, as everyone knows, things are not easy. "The market is not going through a period of growth like a few years ago," explains Daniela Bolla of Energy Tyre, "but we are still confidently looking at growing further, thanks to the meticulous work of many of our partners in every region, as well as the latest marketing strategies and activities that our headquarters in Germany have reserved for us through Stephna Cimbal, the new marketing director and Garett Passmore, export manager and head for the Italian market".

There is still much to be done, though. "The Italian market is very complex, fragmented, and of late rather volatile, but the network is providing a very positive feedback, says Maurizio Farnese, president of Energy Tyres. "Our presence is felt and we can say with satisfaction that it will be so for a long time still. But for this we need to work extra hard in conveying to both our Falken Points and potential customers that what they are looking at is a quality product, with a wide and varied range offer featuring cutting- edge Japanese technology, which makes our products different from the competition".


“The Italian Job”                                                

If on the one hand there can be little doubt about the quality of our products (Falken is backed by one of Japan’s largest groups), brand awareness is still far from being well established at international level. If participating in motor racing events in the United States and Germany (Falken has regularly featured, since 1999 in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring) was enough to turn the spotlight on the brand in those countries, here in Italy, where Formula 1 and Ferrari capture the attention of the general public, we need to explore other routes.

That is why Energy Tyres has decided, in agreement with Falken Tyre Europe, to follow a rather popular trend in the sector, relying on football, the country’s favorite sport, with a two-year agreement starting from the 2016-2017 season with teams such as Bologna, Lazio and Roma. Sideline Led boards in addition to TV spots on Sky Sports during the games, will give the company the opportunity to “meet” potential clients in a non-work setting and creating the basis for further growth.

"For Falken, Italy, this is an important market as it represents one of the Top 5 European markets and therefore, by default, one of great strategic importance for any manufacturer," says Garrett Passmore of Falken Tyre Europe. "Because of the market structure, our relationship with Energy Tyres was the right move and we expect our presence to grow in the near future through brand building and the expansion of our Falken Point program".


Sumitomo; a true giant    

Tires under the spotlight, but not only! Sumitomo Rubber Industries dates back to 1909, and if it is true that tires alone account for 86.3% of its activities, the division of the Japanese group is also present in sectors such as sports (in golf with Srixon and Cleveland, tennis rackets and synthetic lawns) representing 9.1% of the turnover and industrial products (medical products) covering the remaining 4.6%.

Sumitomo Rubber, however, is only one of the industrial divisions of an even larger industrial giant, Sumitomo Corporation, which currently employs around 70,000 people through some 800 companies spread out around the world with diversified interests in sectors ranging from mining to chemistry, from research to logistics, banking and electronics, to name only the most important ones, besides being an important Mazda shareholder.

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