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S. Korea's Hankook Tire To Set Up Plant In US

South Korean tire maker Hankook Tire Co. will set up a plant in the United States to boost its presence in the world's largest tire market, it was announced on Monday.

Hankook Tire Vice-Chairman & CEO Suh Seung-hwa told a news conference in Seoul that Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee were the U.S. states being considered for the plant.

He said his company, South Korea's biggest tire manufacturer, was considering the three southern states and it would take a final decision on the location of the plant by the year-end, the Yonhap news agency reported.

Suh said the proposed plant with an annual production capacity of around ten million units was designed to boost the company's market share in the United States from the current five percent.

Hankook's announcement comes three days after Kumho Tire Co., South Korea's second-biggest tire maker, announced its plan to resume construction of its suspended plant in Georgia. The company broke ground for its first plant in Georgia in 2009, but the project has since been stalled as creditors placed the company under a debt workout scheme to help its parent group ease a liquidity squeeze.

The moves come amid a possibility that South Korea's largest carmaker Hyundai Motor Co. and its sister firm Kia Motors Corp. could expand assembly lines in Alabama and Georgia. Hyundai and Kia, which together form the world's fifth-largest carmaker, each have an annual production capacity of 360,000 units in the U.S.

Hankook Tire also said it had been supplying original equipment tires for the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class since June as part of its first contract with German Daimler AG. "The deal means that we became a company whose quality has been recognized in the world's tire market," Suh said.

Hankook Tire has already been supplying original equipment tires to BMW and Audi, the other two premium German automakers, as well as Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. Hankook Tire has a combined annual production capacity of about 94 million tires at its plants in South Korea, China, Indonesia and Hungary and ships its products to 180 countries around the world, the report said.

by RTT Staff Writer

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