Nokian Tyres Pierre Zupancic Enjoys the Fast-Paced Industry

Nokian Tyres Pierre Zupancic Enjoys the Fast-Paced Industry

Pierre Zupancic, regional sales director, Eastern Canada, Nokian Tyres, is always ready for a challenge.

Whether it’s conquering a 600-mile bike ride with customers or finding creative ways to connect with others, Pierre Zupancic relishes a challenge.  

“[The tire industry] isn’t something I ever thought of making career out of, honestly, but I fell in love with it because it’s a challenging business,” he admits.

Pierre’s first job in the automotive aftermarket came at Sears Auto Center, where he worked during summers off from university. After finding his first job in the aftermarket in sales with a battery manufacturer, Pierre then took his skills to Yokohama Tire, working under the direction of Eric Dedoyard, then regional sales manager and Pierre’s boss and now president of Yokohama Tire Canada. It was at Yokohama where he learned the ropes of the business and started to form relationships across the industry. 

“What’s unique about our business, especially in Eastern Canada, is it’s always moving. You never have quiet times. You’re busy 12 months out of the year,” Pierre says. “We sell summer tires and winter tires, so you’re booking programs. Then, you move into the product presentations. Then, into bookings again. It’s nonstop.”

Pierre thrived on the industry’s fast pace, and his thirst to learn catapulted him to take over Dedoyard’s role as Yokohama’s regional sales manager for eastern Canada. Then, in 2005, Pierre received a call from a headhunter for Nokian Tyres. After taking the job, his directive was clear: expand Nokian’s distribution footprint across eastern Canada.

“Nokian was not as well known in Quebec at the time,” Pierre recalls. But he rose to the occasion.

Over the years, he signed on distributors not only in Quebec but also in the Maritime provinces of Eastern Canada, which include Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Currently, he manages a staff of two sales professionals that cover eastern Canadian provinces. 

“The phone rings off the hook almost every day,” Pierre says excitingly about his work. “You never have a boring day. And me, I like to move, so this industry keeps me striving. It’s always a challenge because you have the competition that’s trying to get your business, so you have to be on your toes and find new ways of doing business. You have to be close to your customers.”

This has held particularly true over the past year, Pierre says. When COVID-19 shutdowns began in Canada last March, Pierre and his team found themselves at a standstill, unable to see customers under strict lockdown restrictions from the government. His boss, Tommi Heinonen, vice president of sales for North America for Nokian Tyres, tasked his team with finding ways to connect with customers despite the circumstances.  

For Pierre, this presented an opportunity to get creative. While other tire manufacturers connected with customers through online product seminars, Pierre and his team got to work planning Nokian’s first-ever drive-in product presentation. 

The plan? Have distributors, dealers and their families come to a drive-in movie theater for a night of fun, while learning about Nokian’s products. Nokian would hand out masks and gifts at the entrance. Then, guests would be treated to a family movie night complete with food trucks and a firework display to top it off. 

“COVID really hit us bad in eastern Canada, and I wanted them to spend a nice evening with us and with their families,” Pierre says, noting that the five separate drive-in presentations attracted 1,500 people. “It was a great success, and our customers were so happy.”

For customers on the outskirts of the province, a territory manager on Pierre’s team rented an RV and drove to Nokian customers to give the product presentation live from their own parking lots. He brought camping chairs for customers to sit on during the presentation, which became their gift to keep.  

“When you get to the outskirts, not too many people visit these garages,” Pierre adds. “These were a great success, and we were the only ones doing it. Everyone else was still in webinars.”

The team’s ingenuity continued as they looked toward spring product presentations, which take place in February. This past year, Nokian debuted the Nokian One, its premiere all-season tire built for North American consumers. Temperatures were too cold to organize another outdoor event, Pierre said, so they decided to go live. 

FUN FACT: As an avid cyclist, Pierre organized a team of Nokian dealers to ride the 2018 Grand défi Pierre Lavoie, a 1,000 km (600-plus mile) cycling event across the Quebec province that takes place over 70 hours. Each team that participates partners with an elementary school to raise money and awareness for healthy lifestyle habits. 

Hosted earlier this year, the Nokian Tyres One Gala was a live event that featured Pierre and Quebec-born actress Anouk Meunier as the hosts. The two introduced snippets on the Nokian One’s product attributes (complete with celebrity appearances) which were interspersed with performances from a local band, a comedian and other entertainment. At the end, the pair gave away prizes to select dealers in the audience of 3,000-plus.  

While Pierre and his team are busy concocting a plan for their upcoming fall product presentation, he reflected on what he feels is the industry’s biggest challenge: recruiting and retaining talent. 

“To me, the challenge is going to be, how do you attract good people to the tire business? How do you keep them? How do you challenge them? You’ve got to show them a way they’ll be challenged and able to grow in the company and move up,” he says. 

This segues to his advice for professionals across the industry: “Make sure your key employees are treated well. Every place I visit—from distributors to small mom and pops—there’s always key people who make those places run. Make sure they’re rewarded, happy and find ways to promote them from within.” 

You May Also Like

Black’s Tire’s Brian Pierce: ‘My People are My Biggest Motivator’

Manager of 16 Black’s Tire stores, Brian Pierce has been commended on his dedication.

Brian-Pierce-Blacks Tire

In the short span of 11 years, Brian Pierce has worked his way up from a general service technician—changing tires, oil and doing some mechanic work—to now managing 16 stores in South Carolina for Black’s Tire. A head-down, humble hard worker, Brian speaks with passion about the industry that he has come to love.

Business Acumen Sends Joe Miles to Top Industry Groups

Treating the customer right goes beyond free tire rotation or doing a flat repair whether you bought a tire from Kaiser Tire or not.

T.J. Tennent Turns His Passion Into Unending Tire Forensics Opportunities

Law enforcement officers across the world know T.J. Tennent and his cherry red Ferrari well, with many of them working to track him down even now, as you read these words. That said, you won’t find any “Wanted” posters of him at any police stations – or if you do, it’s simply a sign that

Tj Tennent
Stephanie Morey Has Carved Her Way Into the Tire Industry

There appears to be no challenge that Stephanie Morey can’t overcome. From being a leader in data management in the ever-changing tire industry to building a shop in her backyard when her woodturning passion was put on hold due to the pandemic, she is up to the test. Related Articles – Yokohama’s Heather Adelman: Grow

Sherri Wolford Prioritizes Positivity in The Fast-Paced Tire Industry

After only two years in the tire service industry, Sherri Wolford’s can-do spirit and values have already had a positive impact on the distribution segment of Myers Industries. Related Articles – Mike Evans Takes Tire Inspections to Incredible Heights in Import Business – Andrew Cutler Prioritizes Community Service – Aaron Telle Reflects on Importance of

Other Posts

Nokian Tyres receives A- sustainability score from CDP

This is the fourth consecutive year that Nokian Tyres has received an A- for its climate work.

Nokian Tyres partners with tire recycling JV

The joint venture plans to recycle up to one million tons of end-of-life tires annually by 2030.

Nokian Tyres releases Nordman Solstice 4 ‘value option’ all-weather tire

The 3PMSF-certified tire is available in more than 50 sizes between 15 and 20 in.

Nokian Tyres launches its sixth-gen all-weather tire, the Remedy WRG5

Built for passenger vehicles, SUVs and CUVs, the Nokian Tyres Remedy WRG5 will be available this spring in tire shops in the U.S. and Canada.