At the end of a challenging year for society and the tire industry, Nokian Tyres is reflecting on a handful of important successes amidst the unexpected adversity. Among the company’s high points in 2020 were growth at its state-of-the-art North American factory, a new product, dynamic marketing campaigns and closer relationships with customers than ever before.
“Luckily 2020 is almost over, but there have still been positive things going on,” said Nokian Tyres North America Director of Sales Tommi Heinonen in an interview on the company’s Journey Podcast. “There have been a lot of creative ideas and new ways of doing business. When times are challenging, people will always find a way to do business.”
Sustainable growth at the new Dayton Factory
Nokian Tyres’ chief headline in 2020 was growth at its new North American factory in Dayton, Tennessee, which the company opened in October 2019. Commercial production began at the highly automated facility in January, and Nokian Tyres nearly doubled its workforce there over the course of the year.
“Starting production in Dayton makes us really proud and is the cornerstone of our growth in North America,” Heinonen said. “We can help our dealers by producing locally in the United States and shortening the lead time for products. That’s the most important thing that happened for us in 2020.”
But production growth wasn’t the only success story at the Southeast Tennessee facility. The factory also earned ISO 9001 quality certification less than a year after opening, and it became the first tire production facility in the world to earn LEED v4 Silver certification.
A new product for North American drivers
The Dayton Factory enables Nokian Tyres to craft products tailored to the needs of North American drivers and customers, including the new Nokian One HT, which the company introduced to drivers in January. Sales of the rugged SUV and light truck tire exceeded benchmarks, a testament to the tire’s popularity and durability – it is the company’s first tire to feature puncture-resistant Aramid fibers beneath its tread belt.
“The Nokian One HT has been a success story,” said Heinonen. “We have been doing very well when it comes to new products and look forward to future products in North America.”
Nokian Tyres plans to introduce new tires for North American drivers in 2021, and the Dayton Factory will play an important role in their production.
If necessity is the mother of invention, the pandemic forced tiremakers to get creative with their customer relationships in 2020. Nokian Tyres delivered, engaging its partners and growing market share in the process.
The company redesigned its training seminars for virtual delivery. And sales representatives even took their show on the road where appropriate, driving RVs to shops and hosting socially distanced seminars around the campfire and at drive-in movie theaters.
“We tried to help our customers and they stayed loyal to us, even during tough times,” Heinonen said. “Our dealers trusted us and gave a fair share of their business to us. Our partnerships stayed strong and carried us through difficult times.”
Nokian Tyres modified sales programs to provide increased flexibility when necessary. And the company helped customers serve their communities amidst adversity. It reworked its dealer co-op program to allow dollars to be dedicated for philanthropic purposes, not just marketing uses.
Dynamic marketing campaigns
The company’s creativity wasn’t limited to its customer relationships; Nokian Tyres also reached consumers through unconventional marketing campaigns designed to meet drivers where they were.
Its Fresh Start campaign helped drivers keep their cars fresh while many sat idle in the garage during the challenging spring season. Ten Rules of Tires featured a website and blog articles about core tire safety principles drivers should remember on the road. And its Journey and Horizon microsites invited consumers to exercise their wanderlust and share their favorite road trips for an opportunity to win free tires and access tire safety advice.
Optimism for 2021
Favorable third-quarter financial results point to recovery for Nokian Tyres after the industry experienced a significant downturn in travel last spring. The company’s Q3 performance exceeded analysts’ expectations; in fact, third-quarter sales in North America rose 25 percent from 2019. Leaders are eager to see what 2021 will bring.
“I am a strong believer that people will be driving even more in the future,” Heinonen said, “so they can stay safe in their nice, clean cars instead of going to airports. I expect that tire demand will be there – when people have been locked down, there’s a need to travel again. Cars are the safest way to do it.”