For over two decades, Bridgestone, Continental, Dunlop, Goodyear, Michelin and Pirelli have been exclusively known as the "big six" - the world's only premium tyre manufacturers.
While this title has at least in part been for historic reasons, there are a number of quantifiable factors which make these manufacturers "premium".
Other than history, there are three key factors which have made the big six sit head and shoulders above all the other manufacturers.
The big six have always had the biggest turnover in the industry, and until recently, by a significant margin.
Prestige OE Fitment
New cars used to exclusively be fitted with premium tyres from factory, and while recently midrange / second tier brands have been winning OE fitment on more "normal" cars, high performance cars, such as BMW M, Audi RS, Porsche all are still exclusively fitted with premium tyres.
Again, until recently, independent tyre testing has been dominated by the big six manufacturers, with the products having a clear advantage over cheaper alternatives.
Of all the mid-range / second tier brands making really good progress over the past ten years, Hankook has been leading the way.
It has been winning OE vehicle fitment for a number of years, and is currently supplying 46 brands and 336 vehicle models, including Audi RS and Porsche, which is a huge achievement.
Their test results have also been steadily improving, and since 2016 all their halo tyre patterns have either been test winning, or have placed in the top three positions, ahead of other premium manufacturers. This gives Hankook two of the three "premium" factors.
With test wins as far back as 2016, and an established OE portfolio, turnover has always been a sticking point. All this has now changed, as in 2018 Hankook overtook Pirelli in global tyre sales. This gives Hankook the trio of accolades so few tyre manufacturers have ever realised.
Everyone in the industry has been quietly calling Hankook a premium manufacturer behind closed doors for what seems like an age, and the respect for the brand has never been higher. In a recent survey by David Shaw, CEO at Tire Industry Research of industry professionals, many of them employed by tyre makers, some in tyre wholesale and a few in upstream suppliers, Hankook were firmly voted as the sixth tyre manufacturer in terms of brand portfolio, and market position.
As of now, Tyre Reviews is officially categorising Hankook a premium tyre manufacturer.