Nokian Tyres: Friendly innovation

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RAM 1500, Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Durango, Nissan Rogue and an Audi A4 B9 on Nokian Tyres | Photo: Matt St-Pierre
RAM 1500, Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Durango, Nissan Rogue and an Audi A4 B9 on Nokian Tyres | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

I’ve known about Nokian Tyres for a long time. I had a set of Hakkapeliitta on my 2004 Volvo XC70 some twelve years ago and was enormously gratified with their performance. I currently have Nokian zLINE A/S rubber on my 2008 Audi A4 and am thoroughly satisfied with the work they do for our near-daily mode of family transportation.

While I’m familiar with the brand, Nokian Tyres invited me to attend a brief drive event at which I was able to sample a few of their crossover, utility and truck tires. Before I share with you my findings, here a little more information on what I must say is a unique tyre company.

Nokian zLINE A/S: Nokian makes one heck of an all-season tire

More than a century of experience

Way back in 1898, some 120 years ago, Nokian started as a rubber boot company. In 1932, they turned their attention to actual tyres and by 1934, they’d invented the winter tyre. Unlike most institutions hell-bent on making money through huge sales volumes, Nokian’s taken and is taking a very different route.

From the onset, Nokian’s been about sustainability, protecting what’s really important namely the environment and subsequently, people. I know it reads like they are holier than thou but the fact of the matter is that Nokian Tyre could be a tier-one volume tyre manufacturer. They’ve long ago decided not to take that route. I tell you, I’m looking over my notes, writing these words and I still have a hard time imagining that this is for real.

Nokian Tyres 2018 line | Photo: Matt St-Pierre
Nokian Tyres 2018 line | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

For the long run, for the planet and the customer

The list of examples to support the decision making process at Nokian is long. Did you know that they were the 1st to remove all cancerous materials from the tyre’s makeup some 12 years ago? This involves loads of R&D at a cost. Did you know that their factory in Finland produces zero waste? That their Colchester, VT offices are 100% solar powered and self-sustainable? Keep in mind that this is not a giant trillion-dollar global pharmaceutical company, they are a mid-size tyre company.

The last few years have been spent reflecting on who they are, and where they want to be in the near future. While it would be possible to massively increase production and sales, Nokian’s approach to business is the opposite of conventional. Instead of pursuing big box stores like Canadian Tire, Walmart, car manufacturers and dealerships, they target small retailers.

Why would they do this? Simple. Smaller retail shops are far more likely to be loyal to the make. They are well taken care of by Nokian, in other words are treated like humans. This in turn develops a very good manufacturer-retailer-customer relationship. If this isn’t the good-old way of doing business, I don’t know what is.

Nokian’s motto or slogan is that it is a life driven company and its mission is to give you, the consumer, peace of mind. Again, these are grandiose words that reflect what many other companies use in their advertising campaigns but after spending a day with them, I tend to believe that they believe in their own words.

Nokian Tyres zLINE A/S | Photo: Matt St-Pierre
Nokian Tyres zLINE A/S | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Future growth and products

This attitude, and business model, is paying off. They are in the process of building their 3rd factory (others are in Finland and Russia) in Dayton, TN, near Chattanooga. By 2020, more than 4-million tires per year will be built there. The goal is to double total sales by 2023 and the North American markets will play a key role in this growth.

This is where I come in. I was able to test the Entyre C/S and Rotiiva A/T on various vehicles, as well as sample some zLINEs on what else but an Audi A4. The Entyre line is the one with the greatest potential in our CUV, SUV and light-truck-crazed automotive landscape. It is designed for these vehicles and to provide durability, comfort and safety on wet surfaces.

Installed on a Nissan Rogue, I was quite spellbound with their quietness, smoothness and, most impressively, their responsiveness. The Rogue is anything but sporty and yet, shod with these tires, I discovered reactive steering on top of a comfortable and controlled ride. And if you think these tires are too “soft” for your Dodge Durango or Ford F-150, they’ve got an ace up their sleeve.

The Entyre line features aramid fibres in the sidewall compound which makes them exceptionally durable, puncture-resistant and able to withstand external impacts. As an FYI, the same material is used by the aerospace and defence industries.

The Rotiiva A/T is designed principally for light off-road duty for those that drive their trucks every day but like to play on weekends. The major advantage to this line of tires is that, like the Entyre and zLINE, they remain quiet and compliant on paved surfaces without every sacrificing real-world handling needs.

Dodge Durango and a Nissan Rogue on Nokian Tyres | Photo: Matt St-Pierre
Dodge Durango and a Nissan Rogue on Nokian Tyres | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Nokian for your next set of tires

Nokian also produce commercial grade heavy tires and Nordman. The latter is where you’ll find previous generation Nokian tyre technologies in new tyres.

Nokian tire quality is on par with the largest most recognized brands such as Michelin and Bridgestone, this I’ve discovered first hand. The next time you’re in the market for some new rubber, and not necessarily for the cold season, ask your retailer about Nokian. I think he’ll have nothing but good things to say about the product.

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