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Staff file photo / Michael Leonard is framed by a tire at Nokian Tyres factory in Dayton, Tennessee. The company makes passenger car and SUV tires at the plant.

Nokian Tyres on Wednesday launched a new family of tires that will eventually be built at its Southeast Tennessee plant as the company drives toward capturing more of the American market.

Nokian's Outpost all-terrain tires are aimed at the increasingly vital sport utility vehicle, crossover and pickup truck buyers, according to the Finland-based company that employs about 325 people in Dayton, Tennessee.

"This is a huge thing for us," said Tommi Heinonen, Nokian Tyres' vice president of sales in North America, during a conference call with journalists. "The continuing ramp-up of the Dayton factory is key for us."

The Outpost AT is targeted at drivers of large SUVs and light trucks. The all-terrain tire has an aggressive tread pattern and puncture-resistant Aramid fibers embedded beneath the tread and sidewalls, officials said.

The Outpost APT, which will only be sold in North America, is an all-purpose-terrain tire versatile enough to let drivers of SUVs, crossovers and small light trucks drive in all conditions, the company said. It, too, has Aramid sidewalls along with an adaptable tread compound, according to officials.

Steve Bourassa, Nokian's North American director of products, said during the conference call that pricing of the new tires is "middle of the road."

"It's a good value for the retail consumer," he said.

Hans Dyhrman, Nokian's marketing director for North America, said the company sees a lot of growth potential in the segment, noting the APT could be used on vehicles by outdoor enthusiasts but who still use their SUV or pickup as a daily driver.

Dyhrman, speaking during the conference call, said Nokian already is capturing more market share in the region, including in the light truck market.

In Dayton, he said, the company is investing $360 million and moving toward producing 4 million tires a year at the factory that opened in late 2019.

"[The Outpost] is not yet made in Dayton, but we look forward to more of our product crafted in North America," Dyhrman said, adding Nokian wants to double sales in the region.

Heinonen, the company's vice president of sales in North America, said Nokian had a record year in 2021, and 2022 is "looking well so far."

Nokian reported net sales in North America of $118.4 million in the first half of 2021, an increase of 62% over the same period in 2020.

The Outpost is currently produced at Nokian's factory outside St. Petersburg, Russia.

Wes Boling, Nokian's senior communications and content manager, said the Outpost will "help us take the next step in our journey in North America."

"We eventually plan to make our entire North American product portfolio in Dayton as volume at the factory ramps up to full capacity," he said in an email. "However, we cannot place a timeline on when that will happen."

The Dayton plant now produces replacement tires for passenger cars and SUVs. Boling said the plant plan includes capital investment within the existing factory footprint that will enable production of light-truck tires.

Nokian plans to hire about 100 more employees late this year and in 2023, which will take the plant above the initial projection of 400 workers, he said.

The plant, the company's only one in North America, moved to 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week production last year.

Heinonen said Nokian is growing its Dayton plant as fast as possible.

"We'd like to get all the products there yesterday," he said. "But we have to do it in a sustainable way."

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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