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Nokian Made Gains in North America in 2020

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Nokian Dayton factory

Nokian looks to its Tennessee tire factory as the cornerstone of its ongoing growth in North America. The plant was shut down for a little more than a month in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This year has delivered plenty of challenges, but for Nokian Tyres Inc., it’s also brought growth. “We gained market share every month,” said Tommi Heinonen, director of sales for North America. “That means our dealers were trusting us and giving a fair share of their business to us even when times were quite nasty.

“The partnerships were strong and carried us over the difficult times, and I’m really thankful.” Heinonen made the remarks in a new podcast the tiremaker is producing.

And when it comes to partnering with tire dealers, Heinonen says that will remain a focus for 2021 and beyond. He says, “We have built this business for the partnerships and that’s how we want to take it to the next level.” He says Nokian is focused on the long term — in both its products, and its relationships.

The company had just started production at its first North American factory this spring when it had to be shut down again due to the coronavirus. That plant will be the “cornerstone” of Nokian’s future growth in the U.S. and Canada, Heinonen said. The company has previously said its goal is to double sales in North America by 2023, and passenger and light truck tire factory is a key driver to that expansion.

Heinonen says the Nokian team came up with creative ways to engage with its dealers in 2020, since the typical in-person events and meetings had to be canceled.

“Our team reinvented the training seminars,” he says, and using formats like the drive-in movie theater to offer information but keep people at a safe distance.

“A couple of our sales team members rented a RV and visited tire stores and promoted our lines and were educating dealers about the tires,” he says. “This has been the year of doing things different.”

Heinonen says he hears from dealers that they’re anxious for when things can return to “normal,” but he’s not sure when that might happen, or what the new normal might look like. Some of the modern tools, such as online meetings, might still have a place in the future.

But Heinonen also expects to see strong days ahead for those who opt to travel by car, rather than airplane.

“I’m a strong believer people are driving in the future,” and he believes people will be driving “even more” in 2021. “I expect tire demand will be there. When people have been locked up, people want to travel again. Cars are the easiest and safest ways to do it.”

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