Hankook Tire has revealed “robust sales growth” of 17% during the first quarter of 2012, but has warned of raw materials price increases eroding profitability.

The supplier posted global consolidated sales of EUR1.2bn (US$1.6bn), a 17.1% year-on-year increase.

Despite the economic downturn and what says is “eroded profitability” due to the raw materials cost spike, Hankook Tire’s operating profit for the quarter increased to EUR158.6m, a 21.5% rise.

Hankook Tire’s global business for the first quarter was driven by “sharp sales growth” in its major markets including Europe, North America and emerging economies.

In Europe and North America, which make up 26.7% and 19.8% of global sales respectively, sales growth was 37% and 31% in each region, marking the highest sales figures since the supplier’s entry to those regions.

Sales in emerging markets including South America and South East Asia also jumped 32.8%, reflecting Hankook Tire’s growing market presence.

Europe and North America led UHP (ultra-high performance) tyre sales growth among all regions at a rate of 45.2% and 33.9% respectively.

In addition, Hankook has been expanding its OE portfolio by supplying tyres for models such as the new BMW 3-Series, following on from the MINI and new 1-Series.

“Hankook Tire has witnessed a continued positive double-digit growth in our global sales during the first quarter,” said vice-chairman and CEO, Seung-Hwa Suh.

“Despite [the] continued global economic downturn, we have been able to set global sales growth and operating profit based on consistent tyre quality improvement.”