The story of Nokian tyres

  • Author: OPONEO.CO.UK

Today, Nokian tyres are a popular choice for surviving snow and other rough driving surfaces. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that the company has its origins in the colder climate of Scandinavia.


The logo of Nokian tyres

On the Nokianvirta river

The firm’s beginnings start during the second half of the nineteenth century, in Tampere (south-west Finland. Here, in 1865, mining engineer Knut Fredrik Idestam set up a small timer mill.

In time, he moved his business to the small town of Nokia on the Nokianvirta river. This was the first of the three companies 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 noted that the Finnish word nokia also means a forest weasel.


An early Nokian tyres advertisement

33 years later, in 1989, the Finnish Rubber Works (Suomen Gummitehdas Oy) was founded. In 1904, the first FRW factory built in Nokia came into operation. FRW soon took over Nokia Wood Mills and, in 1967, both firms merged with the Finnish Cable Works, which had been founded in 1912. From this merger, the Nokia Corporation was born.

First bicycles, then cars

As far as tyre production is concerned, this started in 1925 when FRW began making bicycle tyres. Previously, it had produced footwear and other rubber products. However, the first car tyre came in 1932 from the central Nokia factory.


Today, Nokian is known for its range of car tyres.

Four years later, the firm had its first flagship product: a tyre known today as the Nokian Hakkapeliitta. From the start, FRW (and, subsequently, Nokia), focused on producing tyres suited to the frosty conditions of Scandinavia.

Of course, the Second World War soon occurred and it did not have a positive effort on the Finnish firm’s future development. It wasn’t just new technologies that suffered, as exports were also heavily impacted - the breakdown of cooperation with Russia was a huge blow to the company.


Nokian exports tyres across the world.

Fortunately, it was built back up again after the war and, shortly afterwards, exports were extended to more countries, including the United Kingdom, France and the US. In 1945, the Finnish brand also built a new factory in Nokia.

Nokian Leaves Nokia

Finland’s natural geography involves a lot of forests, lakes and other less accessible areas and it is these unique conditions that helped the Scandinavian manufacturer expand into the market for “industrial tyres”. FRW began producing tyres for the forestry industry, as well as for mines, quarries and building sites. Even today, Nokian is still an important supplier of large tyres to industries all over the world.


Nokian tyres are a popular choice for industrial vehicles.

Likewise, it also continues to occupy a significant position within the bicycle tyre market. Since 1974, these products have been made at Nokian’s factory in the Finnish town of Lieksa. It’s also worth noting that, today, the firm is only one of a small handful of manufacturers of studded bicycle tyres.

Of course, many people have no doubt recognised that Nokian sounds like another well known company in another industry. In 1967, when the Nokia Corporation came into being, it became the world’s largest producer of mobile phones. Because of this success, this arm of the company split off as an independent firm in 1988.

Seven years after this, Nokian made its debut on the Helsinki stock exchange. Currently, the Bridgestone tyre company is the largest shareholder. The Japanese tyre giant acquired an 18.9% stake in the Finnish producer in 2003, although this has not affected the Finnish manufacturer’s independence.

Scandinavian expansion

In the 1990s, Nokian decided to focus on international expansion. In 1998, it opened its first sales showrooms in both Sweden and Latvia. In subsequent years, it began distribution operations through Vianor, which is currently the largest tyre network in Scandinavia.



A modern Nokian tyres facility.

Today, it has over 360 retail outlets across Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Russia, Latvia, Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic and the US. Nokian tyres are also produced outside of Finland, with additional factories in Russia, China, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, the US, Slovakia and Ukraine. While their tyres can be found around the world - including the United Kingdom, of course - Nokian’s key markets reside in Russia, North America, Eastern Europe and other Alpine countries.

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