Onspot of North America, Inc. rang in the new year with a note of congratulations to its 1,400 dealers nationwide for helping the brand become an installed option in 211 truck and bus builders. Not bad for a company that started out of Pat Freyer's basement in July 1988.
The company celebrated its best year ever in 2012 despite budget cutbacks by municipal customers, Onspot North America's largest customer base. The company's tire chains can be found on everything from school buses to fire trucks, ambulances to utilty trucks, fuel and oil delivery trucks to tractor trailers.
"With thousands and thousands sold every year, we have come a long way since 1988, when the company sold a grand total of 126 sets of Onspots. And no, we did not make any money that year," recalled Freyer, president of Onspot North America.
As the company's very first employee and with the help of three investors, Freyer acquired the North American marketing rights for the Onspot Automatic Tire Chain that was invented by the Onspot Company in Linkoping, Sweden in 1977, building on W.H. Putnam's original idea in 1915 to develop an anti-skid device for automobiles in New York. But the product never came to fruition.
Freyer made the first sales calls from his Trumbull, Conn., home. Then, in 1991, Onspot Company was purchased by Sweden's VBG Group, which continues to own the Onspot name, drawings and patents. Onspot of North America, meanwhile, continued to import the product into the United States through 1992, when the company acquired North American manufacturing rights and opened its first factory out of a leased building in North Vernon, Ind. Freyer said the location was less expensive to operate than on the East Coast and had an ample supply of a skilled labor force while also being centrally located for shipping across the country.
Five years later, Onspot North America built its own factory one block away from the original and has since doubled the space to 30,000 square feet. Last year, the company also purchased a 7,400 square-foot building and 3-acre parcel next door to the factory for warehousing.