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There is a pervasive realization among air spring manufacturers that if they intend to remain competitive in a fragmentally consolidated global market, they need to secure clients for long term. Either it is innovation they can offer in the existing product lines as Continental Corp and Neopos did, or it has to be through WABCO way. Some of the key notable developments in the air springs marketplace include,
- WABCO Holdings Inc., a key participant in the global air springs market, continues to consolidate its position in the electric-powered passenger vehicles segment. The company entered into an agreement with a leading German car maker in 2017, with production expected to start in late 2018.
- In a bid to strengthen its presence in the aftermarket and cover a range of commercial vehicle operations, Meritor Inc. launched a new line of air springs, including double convoluted, cab-mount, and reversing (rolling lobe).
- Continental Corp. highlighted its Smart Air Springs for heavy duty vehicles, including trucks and trailers in late 2017. The Smart Air Springs showcased by the company are equipped with a range of features to reduce the overall weight. These innovative air spring have been made from polyamide instead of steel or aluminum.
- Stemco, a leading manufacturer of components for commercial vehicles, completed the construction of a 20,000-sq-facility to design and test advances in materials, design, and technology. The new facility is being built at Fairlawn Corporate Park in Ohio.
- Neopos, a new air suspension technology developed by Formula, offers higher linear compression and return rates of coil springs. According to the company, the new technology has been in development since 2011.
Sales of rolling lobe air springs continue to remain higher than convolutes (single and multi), and sleeves. The marked preference for rolling lobes can be attributed to their small size, low weight, and ability to handle pressure at 1:1 ratio. Rolling lobe air springs have a piston which enables a flexible member to roll along the piston’s surface.
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Air springs find applications in including passenger cars, buses, trailers & trucks, light commercial vehicles, railways, and industrial lifts and earthmovers. Among these, buses and passenger cars represent two largest application segments in the global air springs market. The number of buses and passenger cars is significantly higher than other transportation mediums, which is a key reason for increased demand for these two application segments. Asia Pacific’s position in the global auto industry continues to gain ground. The region is home to the world’s two most prolific auto markets – China and India. According to data from the United Nations, India’s population will even with that of China by 2022 – collectively these countries will have 2.8 billion people.
Unsurprisingly, these two countries have emerged as lucrative markets for not just the automotive industry, but a wide gamut, ranging from healthcare to consumer goods. According to data from SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers), the auto industry grew by 14.78% y-o-y in 2018 over 2017. The Chinese Central Government is optimistic that automotive output will reach nearly 30 million units by 2020.
The fledgling auto industry in these two countries has put Asia Pacific on the global auto components map. For long, many Asian countries, including China, India, and ASEAN were scrambled to because of low labor cost; however, in the last decade or so, this has been complemented with adoption of innovative technology. The broader developments in the auto components industry are rubbing off on the air springs market in the region. In terms of both value and volume, the region will remain at pole position during the assessment period.
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