This story was updated Thursday, July 11, 2019, at 5:47 p.m. with more information.
DAYTON, Tenn. – Nokian Tyres has produced the first test tire at its $360 million factory in Dayton, Tennessee, that's slated for an early 2020 startup.
The initial tire, a Nokian eNTYRE 2.0 in size 205/55R16, marks the beginning of trial production in the biggest milestone yet for the company's first North American tire manufacturing facility.
"While this moment is the culmination of lots of hard work, it's only the start of the next phase of our journey here in Tennessee. I am endlessly proud of our team for working tirelessly to bring us to this point," said Dayton Factory Operations Director Peter Chia.
Between now and the end of the year, Nokian will produce thousands more tires for testing and machine calibration purposes, according to the company based in Finland. Annual capacity at the factory will be 4 million tires, with further expansion potential.
By year's end, the 830,000-square-foot plant aims to hire as many as 150 employees. Nokian plans to have 400 workers on board when the plant is at full production.
Currently, the company has about 70 workers in Dayton, and officials said it's hiring for posts ranging from entry-level production to engineering and management.
Mark Earl, Nokian's senior vice president, termed the first tire "significant for our production team here in Dayton and for our employees throughout North America."
The factory's production team recently returned to Tennessee from an intensive six-week training experience at Nokian Tyres' other factories in Russia and Finland, immersing workers in the company's production processes and introducing them to its culture.
"We aren't just focused on building premium products. We also want to offer a premium experience for members of our team," Chia said.
The company, known for its winter tires, wants to expand its all-season products to the Southeast and the rest of North America, with plans to double sales by 2023.
Hille Korhonen, Nokian's CEO, said the company is building one of the most advanced tire production facilities in the world.
"We are known for that," she said about the company that generated about $1.8 billion in 2018 revenues and employs 4,800 people. "When running our Russian factory today, it's one of the most efficient. This one will be even more advanced from a technology standpoint."
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.