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Staff file photo / Shikela Ray, a tire building machine operator, works at the Nokian Tyres production plant in Dayton, Tennessee, in 2019. At full production, the plant is expected to produce 4 million tires annually.

Nokian Tyres is keeping the pedal to the metal at its production plant in Dayton, Tennessee, as it rolls out a new tire exclusively for the North American market and readies for more hiring this year.

The Finland-based company, which opened its $360 million Southeast Tennessee factory a little more than a year ago, unveiled the Nokian Tyres One all-season tire for cars.

"This is a breakthrough product in the segment," said Tommi Heinonen, the company's North America vice president of sales, during an online launch announcing the new tire. "The Dayton factory allows for speed to the market."

The tire is expected to be available by the end of the month and together with the Nokian Tyres One HT, launched last year for SUVs and pickups, will hit 91% of the North American market, officials said.

Steve Bourassa, the company's North America director of products, said the Nokian Tyres One has better handling, durability, a more even wear and reduces interior and exterior noise.

Also, he said, the tire has added stability for lateral conditions, grip enhancers for soft surfaces such as snow and mud along with hydroplaning resistance for better wet braking and handling.

The tire is equipped with Aramid Armor cord, which he described as a Kevlar-like feature, reducing damages in the side-wall area.

Bourassa said Nokian will offer a "pothole protection warranty" for drivers who purchase the tire, providing free replacement if it's damaged beyond repair by rough roads or curbs.

"Research tells us that as many as one-third of major U.S. roads are in poor condition," he said, resulting in annual vehicle maintenance costs of about $600 per driver.

Wes Boling, marketing communications manager for the Dayton plant, said the factory currently employs 150 workers and plans to hire more workers in 2021, though he didn't give a specific number.

He said the new jobs aren't necessarily tied to the Nokian Tyres One, but the company is aiming for 400 employees in 2023. Boling said the plant's target is to produce 4 million tires annually at that time.

According to Nokian, a modern silica compound from which the tire is produced is engineered to excel in varying conditions. The formulation allows the tire to carry a higher mileage warranty of 80,000 miles, the company said.

"It presents a chance for more drivers to experience piece of mind," said Heinonen. "It was important to see the product from the user's point of view and find solutions for the real world."

The tire's price range wasn't revealed, but Nokian plans to double its all-season advertising efforts and feature both digital and print promotions.

When the Dayton facility was opened in late 2019, Nokian officials said it was one of the most modern tire production plants in the world and the company's largest-ever individual investment.

The company, which also has plants in Finland and Russia, wants to double global sales within five years, according to company officials.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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