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To say that Thule’s beginnings in the US were humble would be an understatement â€“ Founding member Ake Skeppner sold direct to end users at windsurf competitions on the New England shoreline; exhibited the product line at a number of different trade shows and even canvassed local retailers in the greater New York area, all from his â€œofficeâ€ – a now famous station wagon.
Initial success was found in the small but growing sport of windsurfing where a strong, reliable roof rack was an indispensable piece of equipment. This was quickly followed by success in the ski business where Thule’s Swedish heritage certainly helped the product gain rapid acceptance.
By the mid-eighties the first major milestone of the company occurred. At this point, the company sold directly to ski and windsurfing shops but sold through distributors to address the large and growing bike business. A risky decision was made to terminate these distributor relationships and sell direct to retailers through a network of independent sales representatives. Upon this decision rests much of the company’s market success today.
As the company’s sales in the bike business grew, so did the competition with another US rack manufacturer. By the late eighties, Ã…ke and his management team felt that the US market had changed – roof racks were seen as almost lifestyle accessories – and customers demanded features and products different to those available from Thule Sweden where roof racks where viewed more simply as a car accessory.
From this sprang the decision that would be the company’s second major milestone. Ã…ke hired a US engineer and set up a small assembly plant in Elmsford, NY in order to design and manufacture bike carriers that would offer the features demanded by the US consumer and compete effectively with other racks on the market.
From this decision grew the strategy to design and manufacture products in the USA for the US market. Since this time, the company has grown rapidly through product innovation, a commitment to quality and the continuance of a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Into the year 2000 and beyond, Thule continues to evolve our products to meet the need of users.