Nokian Tyres plc has taken a big step forward in fulfilling its goal of doubling sales in North America with the opening of its consumer tire plant in Dayton, Tenn. The plant is in the final months of test production, with commercial tire production expected to begin in early 2020. But the company didn’t wait to celebrate its first tire factory in North America, hosting tire dealers and dignitaries at a grand opening event Oct. 2.
At full capacity, the plant will produce four million passenger and light truck tires a year. And as production expands, it will fuel Nokian’s stated goal of doubling sales in North America by 2023.
Hille Korhonen, CEO of Nokian, told Modern Tire Dealer, “We are already selling more than two million tires to the North American market. The growth is supported by this factory, but also by adding new products that have been designed for this market.”
In addition to the plant opening, Nokian is unveiling a new product this week in Tennessee – an HT, all-season tire.
Korhonen says there are more new products “already in the pipeline” for next year and 2021. And while work will continue to expand the company’s winter and all-weather tire lineups, for North America the all-season tire is key. “We are focusing on light trucks and SUVs,” she said. The opening was capped off with a brief ceremony and celebration inside the factory. The Rhea County High School band played the "Star Spangled Banner." Many of the plant’s 100-plus employees were on hand to greet visitors and lead tours. Peter Chia, operations director and plant manager, said “this place represents sustainable relationships.”
Local leaders celebrated those relationships, too. Current Gov. Bill Lee and former Gov. Bill Haslam both spoke to welcome the company and thank them for the $360 million investment.
Even though the production facility is complete, there’s still more construction on tap for the site. A solar-powered administration building will be built next door. A pond and green space will be added to the front of the property. A warehouse with the capacity for 600,000 tires will also be built.
Asked about Nokian’s work to expand its dealer network in advance of the plant opening, Mark Earl, senior vice president of North America for Nokian, says the company has done a little bit of work in that area. But only a little – and that’s deliberate.
“Our primary focus is on supporting the dealers that we have. Most of the dealers that sell our products are very dedicated. They’ve been asking for more tires, different kinds of tires, better availability, and this factory is there for them.
“I think by word of mouth we’re going to continue to grow across the country.”