The story of Nokian tyres

  • Author: OPONEO.CO.UK
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The logo of Nokian tyres

On the Nokianvirta river

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Its beginnings go back to the second half of the nineteenth century, when in 1865, in Tampere in south-western Finland, mining engineer Knut Fredrik Idestam set up a small timber mill. In time he moved the business to the small town of Nokia on the Nokianvirta river. This was the first of the three firms that would later combine to form the Nokia Corporation. The town’s name also provided the name of the firm, Nokia Wood Mills, although it should be remembered that the Finnish word nokia also means a forest weasel.

Thirty-three years later, in 1898, the firm known as Finnish Rubber Works (Suomen Gummitehdas Oy) was founded. In 1904 the first FRW factory built in Nokia came into operation. Also at the start of the century the firm took over Nokia Wood Mills, and in 1967 both firms merged with Finnish Cable Works, which had been founded in 1912. Thus the Nokia Corporation was born.

First bicycles, then cars

  Nokian tyre treadMan with a tyre

Returning to the question of tyre production, in 1925 Finnish Rubber Works began making tyres for bicycles. Previously it had manufactured footwear and other products, including rubber parts used in various branches of industry. In 1932 the Nokia factory produced its first car tyre. Four years later the firm’s flagship product was ready – the tyre known today as the Nokian Hakkapeliitta. From the start Finnish Rubber Works specialized in producing tyres suited to the frosty conditions of Scandinavia.

As can easily be imagined, the Second World War did not have a positive effect on the Finnish firm’s further development. It was not only work on new technologies that suffered, but exports as well. The breakdown of cooperation with the Russians was a huge blow to the firm. However it was built up again after the war, and shortly afterwards exports were extended to such countries as the United States, France and Britain. Another significant event for the Finnish brand that took place in 1945 was the building of a new factory in Nokia.

Nokian leaves Nokia

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Finland’s natural and geographical conditions (many forests, lakes and less accessible areas) naturally helped the Scandinavian manufacturer to expand in the market for “industrial” tyres. Finnish Rubber Works successfully began the production of tyres for use in forestry, mines and quarries and on building sites. Today’s Nokian is an important supplier of large tyres of these types to world markets. It also continues to occupy a significant position in the bicycle tyre market. Since 1974 these products have been made at Nokian’s factory in the Finnish town of Lieksa. We should add that the firm is today one of only a small number of manufacturers of studded bicycle tyres.

Since we have mentioned the present name of Nokian, we should go back once again to 1967, when the Nokia Corporation came into being. With time it became the world’s largest producer of mobile phones. The huge success of Nokia provided the impetus to split Nokian off as an independent company. This happened in 1988, and seven years later the firm made its début on the Helsinki stock exchange. At the present time the largest shareholder in the Finnish company is the Japanese concern Bridgestone, which bought an 18.9% stake in Nokian in 2003. This does not affect the Finnish manufacturer’s independence.

Scandinavian expansion

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In the 1990s Nokian decided to focus on solid international expansion. In 1998 it opened its first sales showrooms in Sweden and Latvia. In subsequent years it began distribution operations through Vianor, currently the largest tyre network in Scandinavia. Today it has more than 360 retail outlets not only in Finland, but also in Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Russia, Latvia, Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic and the US. Nokian tyres are also produced outside Finland, in factories in Russia (two plants, including one opened recently in St Petersburg), China, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, the US, Slovakia and Ukraine. It is no surprise, then, that the Finnish firm is now the largest tyre manufacturer in Scandinavia. Key markets for Nokian’s products include Russia, North America, Eastern Europe and the Alpine countries.

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