HANKOOK: INCREASINGLY EUROPEAN
Hankook Ventus Prime3
A new touring range featuring new self-repairing and sound-absorbing technologies. The whole European production is characterized by ceaseless technological evolution and commercial strategies
Results speak for themselves. Flattering estimates, following massive investments on its “European quest”, sheds light on Hankook’s plans to become a premium player through quality products. Not least the renewed Ventus range, leading the way with its Ventus Prime , followed by Ventus S1 Evo SUV dedicated to sport utility vehicles and the self-repairing Sealguard version of Ventus Prime, OE on prestigious vehicles such as Volkswagen’s Passat and Touran. The result of a complete production system located in Europe which includes also research and development, able to respond quickly to the changing needs of a lively market, in terms of first equipment as well as replacements.
A CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE
The active commitment, and expansion plans of the South Korean group in western markets is clearly seen in one of its cutting edge industrial facilities: the ultra-modern European production plant built near Budapest. During a recent open-day for the press, we got to visit the advanced Hungarian factory, located just outside the town of Rácalmás, walking between the production lines where new tire ranges are created and future ones are tested following the input of two hi-tech research centers in Europe, Hannover in Germany and Idiada in Spain.
This is where the entire car tires production intended for the Old Continent comes from, whether approved OE for makes such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Volkswagen, much in line with the company’s expansion program on the OE market, or intended for the aftermarket. Turning to highly sophisticated products, some tires deserve special mention, those featuring HRS self-supporting technology (Hankook Runflat System), the self-sealing Sealguard (currently destined as OE on the new Passat and Touran) and the experimental Sound Absorber, which will make its debut in the near future, a tire destined to enhance the driving experience on the most prestigious sedans and SUVs.
The investments made by Hankook on its Hungarian production plant are showing impressive figures indeed: having reached the production target of 19 million car tires - about 18% of the total global volumes - the new Rácalmás industrial complex is about to complete its third development stage. Active since 2007, the Hungarian factory was further upgraded in 2011 and again in 2015 leading to the current production levels. All European passenger car, SUV and light truck ranges come from here (except for motor racing), with further expansion programmed for the transport sector which will see a few production lines being moved elsewhere. A production system that involves, at continental level, around 3,200 employees, along with 90 specialists and engineers located in the two Hankook R & D centers in Germany and Spain, not to mention the Winter Tire Test Center in Ivalo, Finland, where winter tires are tested in grueling conditions.
The Asian giant makes no mystery about its ambitions, fueled by the successful economic results obtained in the first quarter of 2016 with sales over 1,227 million Euro, +9.4% over the same period last year, with operating profits at 189 million Euro (+ 23.6%), mostly thanks to the company’s performance in both the European and North American markets. This growth consolidates Hankook’s position in the sector’s ranking, ready for a 50% further expansion of its distribution channels, direct and indirect, on western markets by 2017.
BETWEEN TODAY AND TOMORROW
The maximum expression of this technological evolution is represented by the most recent Ventus range, the sum of the know-how gained from the company in 75 years (founded in 1941 with the original name Chosun Tire Company, before becoming Hankook in 1953). The latest, unveiled during the Frankfurt Motor Show last September and recently launched on the Italian market in a wide dimensional range, is the new Ventus Prime3 K125, a well-balanced summer tire able to guarantee comfort and performance, destined to the European market for mid-size and executive sedans.
Obviously created in the modern Rácalmás production plant, in Hungary, the new Ventus Prime3, through which Hankook plans to strengthen its presence in Europe both as OE and replacements, benefits from the latest technologies developed by the European Technical Center in Hannover, Germany.
The new high grip silica compound used improves wet grip, with braking distances shorter by 8% compared to the previous model, which earns the Ventus Prime 3 a European A to B rating depending on the size. Furthermore, the tire showed a significant rolling resistance reduction, which gives it a C mark for efficiency throughout the whole range, in addition to an appreciable reduction of the noise level, thanks to the angle of the side blocks and the special shape of the sidewall, reducing the noise level to just 70 dB. The asymmetric design of the tread coupled to the increased stiffness of the structure improves the footprint on the ground, enlarged by 10%, allowing greater control even at a brisk pace, precise handling and better braking on dry roads. Already available on the Italian market, the Hankook Ventus K125 Prime3 currently consists of 53 sizes, 15 to 18 inches in diameter, tread width from 185 to 245 mm and aspect ratios between 40 and 65%, with H, V, W and Y speed ratings.
Alongside the VentusPrime3, the previous Prime 2 remains in production with its evolved self-repairing version, equipped with new Sealguard technology, where a 4 mm layer of viscous rubber mixed with PIB (polyisobutene), coated on the inside of the casing, is always ready to prevent any air leakage in case of puncture. Currently meant exclusively as original equipment for the Volkswagen Passat, in 215/55 R17 size and recently also approved to equip the new Touran, the future availability of this product on the aftermarket is inevitably bound to the time needed to plan a wider distribution.
Furthermore, Hankook innovations also looks at tackling the issue of noise levels. Probably destined for the next generation of maxi-SUVs, such as the Audi Q7, a few specific versions of the Ventus S1 Evo2 SUV range will benefit from the innovative Sound Absorber technology, which uses a sound-absorbing polyurethane layer applied inside the casing, capable of knocking down rolling noise by 5 to 7 dB, thus cancelling the sound box effect produced by the internal cavity of the tire, guaranteeing a comfortable ride without compromising on performance and safety, so typical of the most advanced ranges of Hankook tires dedicated to sport utility vehicles.