MTD Mid-Year Q&A: Nokian Leverages U.S. Investment

June 20, 2024

Nokian Tyres’ U.S. plant will continue to fuel the company’s growth, says Tommi Heinonen, vice president of sales, Nokian Tyres North America.

MTD: Can you bring us up to speed on Nokian’s U.S. business so far this year?

Heinonen: As you know, Nokian Tyres has had a challenging time when it comes to our production capacity (with) the war in Ukraine and losing our Russian plant. But we are building a factory in Romania, which is on time.

We are increasing capacity and investing in Finland and of course, what is most important for us in our Dayton, Tenn., factory. That has been a big project for us and a big achievement.

Another big achievement for us, of course, has been new products We have launched our new all-weather product in the Nokian Tyres family, the Remedy WRG5, made in Dayton, and of course, several new product lines, the Nokian Tyres Outpost nAT and the Nokian Tyres One, which are all now made in Dayton. We are very proud of those.

MTD: Last summer, Nokian announced it was planning to double the capacity of its Dayton plant. Have you reached that objective?

Heinonen: Yes. Our capacity is double what it was.

MTD: The Dayton plant is now manufacturing light truck tires. How is that coming along? What feedback are you receiving from dealers?

Heinonen: We have the Nokian Tyres Outpost nAT, which is our (all-terrain) tire, and then we have the Nokian Tyres One HT, which is our highway tire, and both are available in P- metric and LT metric (sizes.) Feedback from our customers has been very, very positive.

I have to say that maybe the downside at the moment is that we can't build as many as our customers would like to buy. But it's improving every day.

MTD: The Hakkapellitta remains a critical part of Nokian’s line, both globally and in the U.S. With the growing popularity of all-weather category, do you see the U.S. as a viable market for traditional winter tires in the long-term?

Heinonen: We do. There is still demand in the Snow Belt. People still need winter tires. It's always the safest choice in winter weather.

MTD: Shifting gears, let's talk about the reinvigorated Nordman brand. Where is Nokian Tyres positioning Nordman in relation to the Nokian brand?

Heinonen: Nordman is here to stay. We want to develop it and we see a need for having a second brand for our company... (a) tier-two product. Nokian is always going to be our tier one product. Nordman is below Nokian.

MTD: What’s Nokian Tyres’ take on the long-term growth of the electric vehicle (EV) tire category in the U.S.?

Heinonen: EVs also are here to stay. They are growing slower than in Europe, but they are coming. All Nokian tires are suitable for EVs and we have new products with the Electric Fit emblem. On top of that, we have (our) special Silent Drive Technology – (an) acoustic foam in the tires. And (tires with that technology) have been selling well.

MTD: Does Nokian Tyres have any plans to build medium truck tires in the U.S.? I know you produce and sell those products in other regions...

Heinonen: At this point, we do not manufacture medium truck tires in our U.S. plant, but we are evaluating our options all the time.

MTD: Nokian Tyres has been pushing into the southeastern U.S. and other parts of the Sun Belt. Have you been able to grow your network in those areas?

Heinonen: Yes. We have been able to extend our distribution in the South over the last few years. We have quite a nice growth story in the Sun Belt. We’re very happy with the partners we’ve been finding there.

MTD: Nokian Tyres has always taken a precise, selective approach to signing dealers....

Heinonen: We want it to be a mutual fit for both companies. We’re looking for long-term partners and want to make sure it’s working for both of us. We don't want to be just the flavor of the month for anybody and we also don’t want to disappoint our dealers.

MTD: What can Nokian Tyres’ dealers expect to see from the company during the second half of 2024?

Heinonen: The big focus for us is that we want to fully utilize the big investment we’ve made in Dayton. We are focusing on improving our availability. We have a stable supply from our U.S. factory. And we are very happy with everyone who is doing business with us... and happy with our long-term partnerships.

About the Author

Mike Manges | Editor

Mike Manges is Modern Tire Dealer’s editor. A 25-year tire industry veteran, he is a three-time International Automotive Media Association award winner and holds a Gold Award from the Association of Automotive Publication Editors. Mike has traveled the world in pursuit of stories that will help independent tire dealers move their businesses forward. Before rejoining MTD in September 2019, he held corporate communications positions at two Fortune 500 companies and served as MTD’s senior editor from 2000 to 2010.