Zapping LifeXplorer The smashing return of Kilian Jornet to his native Pyrenees
1942: the Thulin family is known for its expertise in the design of steel objects. The patriarch, a fisherman, decides to create a hook to bring up the fish. Thule was born. It was not until 1952 that the first automobile-related product arrived, a steel gallery. And another 10 years to see the first ski rack appear. Then there will be roof bars, bike racks, surf racks, products for children, up to the range dedicated to dogs or the high-end luggage that we know today. We see that even if at the start we were far from today’s brand, innovation was in Thule’s DNA from its first days.
500 people work at the Hillerstorp center, 3 hours north of Malmö, including 250 designers. Here the design, research and development services and the roof rack factory are grouped together. We were able to tour all of the facilities (a rare privilege), and one thing impressed us: everywhere you feel like you’re in a tech factory. Everything is stylish, clean, bright, modern… The 50 robots work in a precise ballet to assemble the parts of the roof bars. Imagine, there are 1530 models of “pads” to be able to adapt the bars to all car models.
But why is Lifexplorer interested in Thule?
Quite simply because the brand, over time, has become indispensable to those who practice outdoor sports, which is implied by their slogan “Bring your Life”: They have solutions to transport everything . Bikes of course, but also kayaks, surfboards, skis, snowboards… they even allow you to play sports while transporting your children. Even better, since 2019 they have developed a range of stunningly easy roof tents. Simply remove the cover, pull out the telescopic ladder and you’re ready to lie down, far from the ground. Moreover, this is one of the essentials that guides designers throughout the process before putting them on the market: products must be simple, robust (therefore durable) and easy to use.
The creation process is quite simple: first the idea, which can come from anyone at Thule, and which very often responds to a need. Second step, feasibility, which includes the technical aspect but also, for example, possible problems linked to regulations. They then move on to the prototypes, which are produced in-house by a team of 12 people working on all materials. Then come the tests (also carried out internally, including crash tests), then industrialization and finally marketing. After 18 months in the stores, they study where the product is, if there is any customer feedback, and finally if all goes well they can close the file.
We were able to see all the stages of a product which will soon be put on the market: the Outset, a tent inspired by roof tents, but which attaches to the towing ball of cars. This tent meets the needs of people who, for various reasons, do not want to climb a ladder to go to bed.
Another proof of Thule’s attachment to our outdoor sports is their team of athletes. During the presentation of the new range (see box), some of their ambassadors were present and the list was enough to make any fan swoon: The kayaker Pedro Oliva, the skier Anja Pärson, the snowboarder Aline Bock, the Mountain biker Emil Johansson, big wave surfer Garrett McNamara, guide Apa Sherpa and base jumper Matthias Giraud to name just a few were present for the brand’s first major show, the THEX 23I24
We wonder what else they will be able to invent in the coming years, but when we see Allax, the new dog cage, we want to get a dog so we can buy it! So let’s bet that they will still be able to surprise us, because it’s the brand’s characteristic to offer us essential products that didn’t exist, right?
The incredible parade
Thule had invited nearly 1000 people from all over the world (journalists like us, resellers, agents, etc.) to a former industrial wasteland in Malmö to present its products, but also and above all to explain the brand’s philosophy. The show, a haute couture fashion parade, began with the arrival of Olympic champion Ingemar Stenmark at the wheel of an old Porshe 911 on which the brand’s first ski box had been installed. Then, the entire international team (sometimes with their children) paraded for more than an hour, in front of a giant screen broadcasting images of their disciplines. The brand told us about the foundations it supports, the people it helps, through strong human stories told by its ambassadors. It was very moving and all the people with whom we were able to speak about it agreed that the message clearly got across: behind the products, Thule is a strong story.
To sum up
We had the privilege of visiting the Thule design center in Sweden. Over time, the brand has become the spearhead of Swedish design and innovation, which is a great feat for a brand known for its roof boxes.
rewrite this content and keep HTML tags