Put a sock on it: AutoSock representatives perform tests in Lewistown

By: 
Charlie Denison
Reporter

Boaz Cuelho does an AutoSock demonstration Wednesday morning at the WTI Transcend Research Facility off Airport Road.

Ian McGee of McGee Company puts on an AutoSock, a product he swears by in the winter months.

You don’t need chains if you have an AutoSock.

That’s what Ian McGee, Marketing Director of the Denver-based McGee Company, said while doing an AutoSock demonstration at the Western Transportation Institute Transcend Research Facility off Airport Road.

The “super lightweight, easy to install” AutoSock is a Norwegian-made traction device for icy and snowy roads co-invented by Dr. Burkhard Boenigk of Germany, who was also at the facility this week.

Boenigk and other engineers – including Dr. Erich Moschik of Austria – were testing AutoSocks, as well as new products not yet available in the United States, during their time at Transcend. Former WTI engineer Eli Cuelho put the testing together.

“We were originally hoping to have the group here last February,” Cuelho said, “but the weather didn’t cooperate. There was no snow and it was 65 degrees.”

Cuelho helped build and design this track specifically so engineers could use it as a training ground, and he’s glad to see if put to use, even if he’s no longer with WTI.

“This is a great facility to do transportation-related research,” Cuelho said. “You can go and stop, go and stop and not have to worry about traffic behind you. It’s a safe, quiet environment.”

“For us, this is pretty ideal to be this far north,” McGee added. “You’re usually guaranteed to have snow.”

Except for last year.

That being the case, the group came out this year instead. It was McGee’s first time to Central Montana.

“The scenery’s not too bad,” he said. “I like the wide open space, too. Denver is so crowded now; it’s the worst: the absolute worst.”

Once he finally got out of Denver and hit the road, McGee traveled on some sketchy roads. He was ready for it.

“I use AutoSocks on my personal vehicle all the time,” he said. “It’s a good thing to have in your trunk during the winter when you don’t have adequate traction.”

The AutoSock is growing in popularity, McGee said, adding that they’ve been approved as an alternative traction device to tire chains in most U.S. states.

One of the major reasons for this is not the convenience, McGee said, but the safety aspect.

“The less time you are outside your vehicle chaining up, the less exposure you have to the elements involved in a snowstorm or on the highway,” McGee said. “We really stress safety.”

Boenigk said an AutoSock can be installed on a tire in less than a minute.

McGee said this is accurate.

“You throw it over the tire, get as much of the fabric on the tread as possible, roll forward and snap the rest on. And removing it is just as easy,” McGee said. “In fact, it’s so easy a child could do it.”

Eli’s son, Boaz, 11, demonstrated this statement firsthand, putting an AutoSock on a pickup in about a minute flat with little effort. He enjoyed doing it and said he expects to use them when he is driving on his own.

“I think I’ll have AutoSocks in my car,” he said.

 

All in the Family

McGee’s grandfather, Charles, started the McGee Company in 1951. The company has continued to grow, as Ian McGee now oversees operations in Denver, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City and Dallas. His brother also helps out

The business has come a long way.

“We started with retreading passenger and commercial tires,” McGee said. “That was 98 percent of our business. Now it’s almost the opposite. Now it’s 5-10 percent of our business. Passenger tires aren’t retreaded anymore.”

Now, McGee Company focuses on the transportation industry and regularly changes focus depending on market trends.

“We keep our eyes on the long-term goal and not necessarily on one product line,” McGee said.

Much of the business focuses on winter weather preparation and is known as one of the major players in the traction market in the United States. This led to their collaboration with Boenigk, Moschick and other internationally known engineers, who continue to assist them with cutting edge products, as well as updated, improved versions of the AutoSock.

“We’ve added some more sizes and configurations in hopes to expand our approval, which is why we’re here in Lewistown.”

Thanks to the experts on board, McGee said the tests went well.

“I wasn’t worried,” he said.

The AutoSock is not available in most auto stores. For more information, go to www.autosock.us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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