When it comes to buying tires, one big question that springs to mind is which brand to pick from? Most people that are knowledgeable about tires have their favorite brand, usually one of the bigger companies like Michelin, Bridgestone, or Continental.
But what about a smaller, newer company like Kumho from South Korea? So, let’s take them and match them up to one of the giants, Michelin. You might think that there is no chance for Kumho, but what I found was actually quite interesting. Let’s dive in by taking a deeper into Kumho’s history.
The company was founded in 1960 under the different name of Samyang Tire in Gwangju, South Korea. Today the company is known as Kumho tires, however, they are a subsidiary of Doublestar since 2018. When Kumho First opened they produced around 20 tires per day.
For the first few years, Kumho supplied tires to East Asia but by 1966, Kumho got the US Department of Transportation (DOT) mark, making the tires legal within the American market. Before this, however, Kumho took a big step by establishing ties with US tire company Uniroyal.
The ties with Uniroyal allowed Kumho to expand into the world market. By 1977 Kumho created the subsidiary, Kumho Tyre which began expansion in the UK. The total number of tires Kumho produce hit 30 million by 1983.
Come 1990, Kumho achieved a total number of 100 million. Two years later Kumho was awarded 10th place on the TOP-10 ranking of tire manufacturers worldwide. This was only the first time and Kumho carried this momentum forward, becoming number 9 in the same ranking.
Kumho has had some hard times however and they were hit hard in the 2008 crash. Now how they have a number of production facilities and research centers all over the world including the USA. Though much younger than most of the large tire companies, Kumho makes good quality tires due to their dedication to research.
Kumho’s Tire Families
Kumho’s tire family selection is smaller than most companies at only six, however, some of the tires seem to crisscross between tire type and vehicle types which can make shopping for tires confusing.
The ECSTA is the main tire line for passenger and performance car tires. Kumho’s performance summer tire line consists 100% of ECSTA tires in addition to some of their all-season tires.
There is a wide selection of ECSTA tires that range from dry to wet performances to wear resistance and comfort/noise. When purchasing an ECSTA tire be sure to identify which tire suits your needs the most. Additionally, there is a low profile ECSTA tire made for SUVs.
The SOLUS tire line can mainly be found in the all-season selection along with one selection in the winter tire line for passenger vehicles. The SOLUS tire line is overall better than the ECSTA tire line when it comes to all-season tires.
Not only are they more durable but their performance is better in every metric. This does mean that they are more expensive. The winter tire variant of the SOLUS is not as good as the WINTERCRAFT tire, however. They are classified as winter / all-weather tires though, so they have a larger working temperature range.
The WINTERCRAFT tire selection supplies tires for both passenger vehicles and SUVs/light trucks. They also provide studless and studdable tires for both markets. All of the WINTERCRAFT tires have a 10/10 rating from Kumho along with a relatively high rating in comfort.
There is only one tire in the I’ZEN tire family at the moment. It is a winter tire designed for passenger vehicles and light trucks. It is a studless winter tire designated for alpine driving, which means it has good handling on snowy mountain roads.
CRUGEN tires are designed as an all-season tire for light trucks, SUVs, and CUVs. There are only three of them they all have different levels of performance in the different weather conditions. Additionally, Kumho manufactures a commercial highway A/S tire which is also in the CRUGEN family.
The ROAD VENTURE is made only for light trucks, SUVs, and CUVs. This tire family consists of 5 tires and covers two main designs, all-terrain and mud-terrain. These tires are almost only used for off-roading. You could use them on road, but they do create a lot of road noise.
Michelin Tires’ History
Michelin is the world’s second-largest tire manufacturer which is thanks to Michelin’s technological advancements. Michelin is one of the world’s oldest manufacturers at 132 years old, being founded on the 28th of May 1889 by the Michelin brothers, Édouard and André.
The first major technology they introduced was the removable pneumatic tire, which was patented in 1891. Before this innovation, fixing a flat or changing a tire would take up to three hours to remove the tire because it was glued to the rim.
Once the tire was either changed or repaired it would take a full day for the glue to dry. When the brothers went through this whole process for a client, just to have the tire fail within minutes, they came up with the removable pneumatic tire.
A few months after the patent was published, Charles Terront won the world’s first long-distance cycle race with the removable pneumatic tire. Some thirty years later the company introduced another iconic tire technology.
In 1934 Michelin introduced the run-flat-tire. They did this by designing the tire with a special foam lining that would support the tire if it was punctured. Their most influential invention, however, was yet to come.
In 1946 Michelin invented the Radial tire. The radial tire, without a doubt, revolutionized the tire industry. The radial tire introduced the steel belt that runs the circumference of the tire, under the tread.
The tire also has nylon fibers in the sidewall to give structural support. The fibers are aligned 90 degrees to the tread which provides both flexibility due to the material, and stability due to the alignment. Because the tread and sidewalls are supported by different systems, the tire is more durable because advantages can be gained from both systems.
Michelin even had their stint in Formula One, taking four constructors’ championship wins. These victories were not without hardship, however, as Michelin was at the heart of the US Grand Prix debacle in 2005. After many disagreements with the FIA, Michelin finally pulled out of Formula One at the end of the 2006 season.
With Michelin only second to Bridgestone, they are a reputable company to buy tires from. Their tires provide some of the best performance in all areas and they are reliable. Michelin’s strategy is to “use technology and innovation to make its products and services stand out.”
Michelin Tires’ Tire Families
Michelin has many tire families with many different tires in those families. Michelin has set up their tire families in such a way to make it easily understandable for customers so that they can make the best purchase for their needs.
The Primacy tire has been designed to combine all-weather handling and traction for a quiet and comfortable ride. Michelin strives to make the Primacy tire as safe, reliable, and durable as possible. There are seven tires in the Primacy tire line, all of which are all-season apart from two of them which are summer-only tires.
The line covers a broad spectrum of vehicles from passenger cars and luxury performance cars to light trucks and SUVs. If you want a good reliable everyday tire, Michelin will have what you are looking for in the Primacy tire line.
Where the Primacy tire is the Swiss army knife, ready for any occasion, the Pilot is a scalpel that is specially designed for a specific task. This is why the Pilot tire family has sixteen members. There is a tire for every occasion with one thing in common, the goal is to unlock as much performance from your vehicle as possible for the correct situation.
Michelin’s Premier line only has two tires, one designed for sedans and one for light trucks and SUVs. Both tires are all-season but what sets them apart from Michelin’s other tire lines is their durability. These tires are advertised as long-lasting and staying safe as they age.
Michelin’s Latitude Tires have a wide variety of specialties among the six tires in this line. They do have a common goal in mind though and that is to give you the best choice of tire for your light truck, SUV, or CUV.
The Crossclimate is built to be a workhorse in extreme weather conditions, be it mud or snow. There are only four models in this tire family, but they cover all forms of vehicles. All four tires have the 3PMSF and M+S ratings.
X ICE has it all in the name. This tire is designed to give maximum performance in the most extreme conditions. There are three tires in this line with the biggest difference being the type of vehicle the tire is designed for.
The Defender only has two tire types the DEFENDER LTX M/S and the DEFENDER T + H. Along with their targeted markets of LTX M/S and T+H, they are also designed to last longer than most tires at an extreme of 80,000 miles tread life.
The Energy line only has three tires in the line and is only designed to be fitted to passenger cars and smaller luxury performance vehicles. The goal of this tire line is to take the technology which Michelin has developed to improve the gas mileage of the vehicle.
Michelin has not sacrificed performance or longevity to achieve their goal in energy-saving which makes this tire a good choice, especially for city drivers.
The LTX tires are built for the needs of today’s recreational and commercial drivers. Perfect for off-road adventures with all-season light truck tires, built to handle gravel with excellent all-terrain traction. Pick from one of the two tires in this tire line.
Differences Between Kumho and Michelin Tires
Though Kumho is often seen as an excellent unknown brand, Michelin does win overall when it comes to customer ratings.
Performance-wise both companies have a good score from customers. Michelin has a 5 out of 5 star rating whereas Kumho has an average of 4 out of 5 stars. Additionally, Michelin has a larger selection of performance and everyday use tires so the customer can really tailor their tire choice to their needs, giving Michelin the win in this category.
Not only does Michelin have more tire families to pick from, but there are also more tires in their families overall than Kumho. Michelin simply is a larger brand so there will always be more options for Michelin tires.
When it comes to pricing, Kumho tires are cheaper, as Michelin is one of the most expensive tire brands if not the most expensive. That being said, a cheaper price does not always mean a higher value. For this category, I want to say they draw even.
Kumho tires are cheaper but not as good, whereas Michelin tires are better but more expensive. Dollar for dollar I want to say you get about the same mileage, but you will have more performance from Michelin tires.
Warranties are a great way for us to see how much faith a company puts behind its product. Looking at mileage warranty, Michelin has more trust in their tires than Kumho tires have in theirs.
Advantages of Kumho
The biggest advantage Kumho has over Michelin is the price. Though their only advantage over Michelin is their price, they are not bad as a tire company. They do provide safe and reliable tires for a lower price; you simply get less from them because you pay less.
Advantages of Michelin Tires
Michelin has a few key advantages. They have a large selection to choose from, the quality of tire is better, and they are widely available.
Which Brand to Choose
Overall Michelin is the better choice. They have a wider variety, a longer track record, and better quality. That being said Kumho isn’t bad for how much they charge so if you are strapped for cash, they might be the right pick for you.