Ivalo is the destination of choice for many tyre makers when it comes to testing winter and cold weather products, and Hankook Tire has announced plans to establish its own European winter tyre testing facility near the Finnish village. The company recently signed a contract to build this together with Test World Oy.
The Hankook Tire proving ground will be located next to Test World’s Mellatracks site and incorporate new test tracks for different test situations, as well as state-of-the-art workshop facilities, offices, meeting and social rooms. Tyre spotters and the curious needn’t make the journey up 200 miles above the Arctic Circle without an invitation, however, as Hankook comments that the site will be “securely fenced”. Design work and preparations for construction commenced immediately after the agreement’s signing, and Hankook expects the entire site to be operational from December 2016.
“Our company has long tended towards regionalised product development,” shares Ho-Youl Pae, head of Hankook Tire in Europe. “We therefore strongly believe that Hankook premium products must be developed and tested within their designated region in order to optimally match specific road and weather conditions as well as respective local market needs. The time taken to develop and test a product is also increasingly significant, and the new winter proving ground in Ivalo shall boost effectiveness of our winter testing here in Europe.”
The tyre maker says an influential factor in its decision to invest in a proving ground in Finland’s north was the “increasingly varying” and “uncertain” winter conditions experienced in southern Scandinavian and Alpine areas. Ivalo’s location, explains Hankook, offers “very stable and long winter conditions” that “extend the time available for testing.” The site’s accessibility by air and the presence of a wide range of ancillary services were also named as additional Ivalo benefits. The Hankook Tire Europe Technical Centre (ETC) in Hanover, Germany will take on responsibility for managing the site once it is established.
“Hankook Tire has significantly expanded R&D departments in Europe since the initial opening of our facility in 1997,” comments ETC technical director Klaus Krause. “Today we are one of the main suppliers to many premium vehicle manufacturers, including all German brands, such as Audi, BMW, MAN, Mercedes-Benz Car and Truck, MINI, and Porsche. This requires a drastic increase in testing capacity, which includes an expansion of our future winter original equipment business. Our long-standing, successful and trustworthy partnership with Test World convinced us that we’d achieve the best results through establishing the new venue in Ivalo. Thus I am sure that the new, first-class facility will help us to fulfil our future requirements on time and without compromise.”
“Hankook is our long-term customer and a premium player in the global tyre market,” adds Alex Burns, chief executive officer of Test World parent company the Millbrook Group. “The contract to construct a new winter tyre testing centre for Hankook in Ivalo is an indication of confidence in our company and, at the same time, strengthens our position as the world’s leading winter tyre test facility operator.”