Hankook Tire, South Korea's leading tiremaker, said on Monday that it has signed an agreement to supply original equipment (OE) tires for the new Mercedes-Benz S- Class model.
With the agreement, Hankook became the first South Korean tire company to supply OE tires for Germany's 'Big Three' automotive brands. The company already reached agreements to supply tires for Audi in 2006 and BMW in 2011.
The new S-Class model of Mercedes-Benz will be factory- installed with Hankook's customized tires, the company said, noting that the E-Class model will be equipped with its OE tires. BMW's 5-Series will also be equipped with Hankook's premium tires, following the German carmaker's 1- and 3-Series.
The company signed an additional agreement with Japanese automaker Nissan to supply OE tires for New Altima model. The agreement helped Hankook become the first South Korean tire brand to provide OE tires to all top three Japanese carmakers -- Toyota, Honda and Nissan.
Based on the new agreements with global luxury brands, Hankook aimed to become the global top-five tiremaker in 2014 and No. 1 by 2020.
"2013 will be defining year for us in terms of gaining the global top-tier status with an expanding OE portfolio with premium automotive brands such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Honda, Toyota and Nissan," Suh Seung Hwa, vice chairman and chief executive of Hankook Tire, told a press conference.
The world's seventh largest tire maker by sales said that it aimed to produce 94 million tires in 2013, noting that it will raise the production capacity until its annual output tops 100 million units.
The South Korean company has been operating seven large-scale factories in its homeland, China, Hungary and Indonesia to supply products to over 180 countries around the globe.
Backed by growing OE tire supplies and robust demand for ultra high performance (UHP) tires, Hankook saw its tire sales increase 8.3 percent from a year earlier to reach 7.03 trillion won (6.4 billion U.S. dollars) in 2012.
The tiremaker, established in 1941, started its OE business in 1999 as a latecomer with the OE portion accounting for 37 percent of total tire sales in 2012.