Suomen Gummitehdas was an exporter from the beginning. With the help of export agents, contacts were established with the Baltic countries and Romania, Hungary and Switzerland. Representation in Sweden had already been established in 1900. An export manager was appointed in 1927.
In the 1930s, Hakkapeliittas were exported along with other technical rubber merchandise, first to Scandinavia and Estonia. Tyres from Nokia could be found in the Tallinn sales catalogue of Teknillinen Kauppaosakeyhtiö (Technical Sales Company). As the war approached, exports were limited. The Winter War and Continuation War effectively stopped exports from Gummitehdas.
After the war ended, Suomen Gummitehdas quickly established relations with Great Britain and the United States for machinery and material supplies. Export contracts for winter tires into Denmark were signed in 1948. Sales only started properly in 1949, when the company was present at the St. Erik’s trade fair in Stockholm and an exhibition in Copenhagen. In the words of the Gummitehdas annual report, “Hakkapeliittas achieved great acclaim.”
Export takes flight
There was still widespread uncertainty on the international market in the 1950s. Sweden and the other Nordic countries became the main export destinations for tires. The subsidiary Finska Gummi Ab, which was established in Sundsvall, Sweden in 1959, sold 8,500 Hakkapeliittas in its first year. This indicated a new beginning for internationalisation, as this was the first time exports are separately mentioned in the company's annual report. By 1960, products were already being exported to eight countries.
Hakkapeliitta was the powerhouse of international sales. In 1963, the share of tires of the entire exports of the company was forty per cent. Exports to the Soviet Union started in 1964. Studded Hakkapeliittas were shipped for use in luxury cars in Leningrad and Moscow. Sweden was still the leading export destination with 36,000 tires each year. Norway and Britain joined in, and by 1968, products were exported to 20 countries. Export figures more than doubled towards the end of the decade. USA became a new, important partner.
The breakthrough of the radial tire in the 1970s signified new opportunities. The export of radial tires into Great Britain started in 1972. The sales of heavy tires increased in particular. Tractor tires were supplied to Valmet in Brazil. The oil crisis and the recession of the automotive industry made tire sales challenging. Export activity was increased, and a market for steel belted tires was found in the United States in particular. A subsidiary called Norsk Traktorkompani A/S was established in Norway in 1978. In Europe, the partners were Austria, Ireland and the Netherlands. By the end of the decade, Hakkapeliittas were also being sold to Canada, Greenland and Japan.
Half of Nokia’s tire production was exported in the 1980s. The Hakkapeliitta NR 09 became the leading product. In 1983, 330,000 Hakkapeliittas were sold abroad. The subsidiary Nokia Products Ltd, established in Toronto in 1980, supplied forestry machine tires to Canada. In Scandinavia, Hakkapeliitta tripled its market share within a decade. In Norway, the company purchased the retail chain Wullm Dekk A/S.
The use of winter tires gained popularity in Western Europe in the 1990s, which increased the sales of Hakkapeliittas. In 1996, three out of four passenger car and van tires made in Nokia were being sold abroad. At the end of the 1990s, Nokian Tyres became the leading tire manufacturer in the Nordic countries, with exports to fifty countries.
Modern facilities across the globe
Nokian Tyres’ global production facilities are located in cities across the world: Nokia and Dayton. Product development and the manufacture of prototypes and test batches are located in Nokia next to the company’s headquarters. The Nokia factory manufactures passenger car tires, heavy tires and retreading materials for truck tires. The company has also decided to invest in completely new capacity in Europe.
In the 2010s, Nokian Tyres is even more international than before. The key markets for Nokian Tyres winter tires are in the Nordic countries, North America and Central and Eastern Europe. Expertise in northern conditions is required wherever snow and ice appear on the roads. In 2015, winter tires accounted for 73% of the sales of the world's northernmost tire manufacturer. Especially SUV tires have become even more important than before.
In 2019, Nokian Tyres celebrated the Grand Opening of a new state-of-the-art tire factory in the United States, located in Dayton, Tennessee. Tire production began in 2020. At full capacity, the Dayton factory will employ up to 400 workers and build as many as four million tires per year. The Dayton factory represents Nokian Tyres' commitment to sustainability: it is the only tire production facility in the world to boast LEED v4 Silver certification, a testament to its eco-friendly design, use of solar energy, and energy efficiency. The plant serves customers across the United States and Canada, concentrating on the production of North American-specific car and light truck all-season and all-weather tires.
Strong involvement in the everyday lives of consumers through web services improving road safety is another fresh new initiative. In addition to traditional sales channels, products are now also being offered for sale online.