Ever since it was discovered a good few centuries ago, America has been seen as the promised land by millions of people, including artists, sporting competitors and businessmen. Falken, a firm specializing in producing tyres for cars with extremely powerful engines, was also created with the aim of conquering the New World.
Falken, child of Sumitomo
Falken is a child of Sumitomo Rubber Industries, a Japanese giant with (literally!) centuries of tradition. The Japanese concern’s bosses needed a brand under which they could promote the tyres known today as UHP (Ultra High Performance), particularly in the exceptionally rich and opportunity-filled American market. Thus in 1983 the foundations were laid for Falken, which rapidly made its début on the market, still in its native country, by selling the FC06C/FK07A models, addressed to those who liked to drive with speed and aggression. Falken thus began to build up its position among uncompromising drivers.
Falken has direct connections with the Ohtsu Tire & Rubber Company, which belongs to Sumitomo Rubber Industries (and has the Japanese name Ltd. Otsutalya). Ohtsu Tire was founded in Osaka in 1944, and has been under Sumitomo’s ownership since 1980. In Japan the firm produces rubber products at two factories, one near Osaka and one in Miyakonojo.
Being young and being cool
To return to Falken itself, after serving a short two-year apprenticeship on the Japanese market it was thrown in at the deep end of foreign sales. In 1985 tyres carrying the characteristic letter F were exported for the first time (through the above-mentioned Ohtsu Tire). The promising market results persuaded Sumitomo’s bosses to take further action, and in 1990 the Falken Tire Corporation was founded, which at the same time opened its first offices in the United States. The company’s US headquarters is now located in Fontana, California, while three further branches operate in Tennessee, New Jersey and Texas.
In 1993 Falken presented its first sports tyres, which had been designed, perfected and produced following testing on a racetrack. Three years later the firm launched the famous ZIEX ZE502 model, which according to the Japanese brand’s management defined the subsequent style of its tyres in terms of the three words “youth, “cool” and “sport comfort”. Falken targets its tyres at the 18–24 age range.
Racing and women
Sport is one of the most important sectors where Falken has made its mark. In 1999 the firm made its début in the 24-race at the Nürburgring circuit, where it presented its flagship FK451 tyre. This obtained excellent reviews from experts and drivers, including the famous German driver Roland Ash, who used Falken tyres on his Nissan Skyline GT-R. Today Falken enjoys success in multiple motor sports. The Japanese firm’s tyres are supplied for such competitions as the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), Formula Drift Series, D1 Grand Prix and British Drift Championship. In drift competition Falken has for many years been one of the leading brands.
An inseparable element of the world of racing and fast cars is women. For several years the Japanese firm’s products have been promoted by an elite group known as the Falken Models. Models such as C.J. Gibson, Mary J. Castillo and Lindley Hanson are the most effective ambassadors for the tyres with the letter F, which as from the present decade are now also available for such vehicle classes as luxury SUVs and light goods vehicles (including pick-up trucks). Since 2010, together with Ohtsu Tires, the firm has been offering tyres for large and medium-sized goods vehicles in the United States.
The feminine element in the firm’s marketing is associated with a major image transformation that Falken underwent in 2002. The brand’s character is marked with the slogans “Driving pleasure as you like” and “Driving inspiration”. The brand name itself also carries a message, Falken being the German word for falcon, a strong, predatory bird.
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