The link in the chain
The link in the chain between the tyre and the road surface, whether it be ice- or snow-covered. From simple to smaller, shaped links, to the latest easy to mount composite plates, König and Thule represent the past and the future of winter traction
New communication technologies also cover an important aspect of promotion and customer service: in addition to the website, where you can find the right model of chain for a specific car, truck or tractor, there is also a smart phone application with a video giving advice about using chains and practical instructions for assembling them.
When talking about chains, the name that will probably come up is König, whose worldwide presence is also thanks to its acquisition in 2004 by Thule, the Swedish company with global distribution. But König has a much older history: it was established in 1966 as an off-shoot of the historical Trafilerie Boghi of Lecco, which made the first snow chains in 1952. It reinvented what was at one time simply a series of welded links adapted to fit the circumference of truck tyres and offered car drivers the most practical and least complicated solution available at the time. The first female-oriented advertising showed a pretty young woman single-handedly mounting the chains on her car after being caught in sudden bad weather. This was in 1986 and with the easily mounted Polar Flex chains the company in Molteno demonstrated that inventiveness and ability can revolutionize a device that was believed to be exclusively for professionals. Nowadays, it is even simpler.
No Problem, Comfort, Magic and Summit are the names that marked the chains' stages of development and whose performance and characteristics have stayed in step with the demands of an automobile industry attentive to the mobility of its vehicles and ready to collaborate on researching integrated solutions. This synergy led to products that meet the latest requirements of ever smaller sizes, the maximum expression of which is today's K7, a fine, 7-mm-thick chain that can even be used on GT sports cars. Specific solutions that combine an external element, the chain, with the subtle complexities of increasingly sophisticated wheels and suspension that are of fundamental importance for the efficiency of all vehicles. A dangerous combination if the products are not ideal as they could damage not only mechanical parts and the bodywork, but also the brakes and shock absorbers, with the inevitable consequences that are not difficult to imagine.
Attentive to consumer products at least as much as to those for professionals, production at the Lombardy-based company is almost symmetrically divided between the two. The acquisition of the Italian brand by the Swedish group brought new stimuli and goals, which culminated this year in the precise identification of two ranges, one for cars with the Thule brand, which is known globally also for other products devoted to transport, and one with the historical König logo for professional products. A solution intended to emphasize the international nature of the two brands by distinguishing the updated packaging with specific colours without changing the quality of the chains inside.
During an in-depth visit to the production site, we were told that this operation in no way heralds a transfer of production given recent investments in modernizing the industrial centre at Lecco, the manufacturing base since 1977, and now being updated to meet ISO 14000 parameters. As we toured the assembly lines we saw updated machinery that makes from the wire rods (the raw material of extruded steel) up to 11 kilometres of chains per day, with welding at the 57 work stations of an average of 2800 steel links per minute. The production process begins with cutting and bending the individual links of wire which have a diameter of 3.5 to 13 mm, depending on the final use. It continues with joining the parts of the chain, shaping the more elaborate models, and annealing in a protected atmosphere (a much more effective operation than the tempering of low-cost products). The final galvanizing treatment makes the metal resistant to attack by corrosion without altering its mechanical characteristics. However, it is always a good idea to check chain efficiency at the start of every season. Chains should be washed after use and kept dry in the original packaging, ready for the next snowfall.
The Thule group operates in four business areas: roof boxes, bicycle racks, roof attachment kits and, of course, snow chains. New communication technologies also cover an important aspect of promotion and customer service: in addition to the website (www.konig.it), which is always updated and where you can find the right model of chain for a specific car, truck or tractor, there is also a smart phone application with a video giving advice about using chains and practical instructions for assembling them. So that fast and intuitive assistance is available at any time and in any place.