The Thule Group plans to add a third business unit in North America to target child transportation as part of the proposed acquisition of Chariot Carriers Inc.

Sweden-based Thule announced Thursday that it had agreed to acquire all assets of Canada-based Chariot from brothers and co-founders Dan and Chris Britton and Chariot CEO Pierre Doyon. While disclosing that Chariot has annual sales of about $24 million and is profitable, the parties declined to disclose the purchase price or other details of the deal.

The purchase of Chariot, which will be subject to formal approval by Europes anti-trust regulators, would mark the Thule Group’s first acquisition since the Swedish private equity company Nordic Capital again took over as the dominant shareholder of the Group in December 2010.

If Thule consummates the Chariot deal, it will create a Child Transportation Systems unit in North America alongside its existing Work Solutions and Cargo & Support units. Currently, Thule derives roughly two thirds of its North American revenue from the Cargo & Support unit, which provides solutions for passenger cars, while the balance comes from the Work Solutions unit, which focuses on solutions for the professional market.

Right at the beginning of our preliminary discussions, it was evident that both companies shared similar outlook on delivering smart and market-centric solutions for active families, said Magnus Welander, CEO and President of the Thule Group, which began discussions with Chariot in September, 2010. The synergies became even more obvious as we looked at how we evaluate markets and how we value quality in products and people.”

Priced starting at around $425, Chariot bicycle trailers and multi-functional child carriers are coveted by runners and other active parents as a deluxe solution for bringing small children along on their outdoor adventures. Chariot places its axles behind rather than under its carriers to minimize cab vibration and uses hefty frame tubes to maximize child safety. Dealers like the brand because it offers them add-on sales as owners return to buy separate kits needed to adapt the carriages for cycling, jogging, strolling, hiking or skiing.

All Chariot products are developed and designed in Calgary, where about 30 employees work. Production takes place both in China and Canada.

Founded 30 years ago, Chariot is already a market leader in several European countries and in North America, where its competes most directly against Burley.

“When the Thule Group approached us, we were impressed with their similar focused approach to their brands and with their understanding of our business and markets, said Dan Britton, Chariots founder and part owner, who will continue in the company as director innovation. We felt that they were the perfect partner to help Chariot grow to the next level and to its full business potential worldwide.”

Thule officials said it was too early to identify supply chain synergies. On the distribution side, however, Thule will provide Chariot entrée to ski, paddle, automotive and truck accessory stores, while Chariot will provide Thule with access to child and baby retail channels.  

The agreement follows Thules increased focus in recent years on consumer research and dealer education.

After creating a head of retail training position at the end of 2010, we ran 15 regional training events for retailer staff this spring, wrote Thules SVP for communications wrote in an e-mail to The B.O.S.S. Report. Our sales team performed hundreds of training sessions in stores and finally we connect with thousands of sales personnel every year via our on line training site with 3 point 5. As vehicles and our products are constantly changing, this job will never be ‘done.

In March, the company hired someone from the cycling industry for a new merchandizing manager position focused on improve its in-store fixtures and retail presentation.


In April, the company elected a new board, including Chairman Stefan Jacobsson (previously CEO and president at Puma and Abu Garcia), Lilian Fossum Biner (also on the Board of Oriflame and the Swedish retail chain Ahlens) and Lottie Svedenstedt (previously at the boards of H&M and IKEA). The changes represent an important step toward an increased focus on brand building and retail.

Later this month, Thule will launch a new website that lets consumers check inventories at local dealers.