Rodrigo González
Grupo Gonher

Filter and Lubrican Maker Proves Export Worth

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 12:57

R&D allows companies to stay ahead of new technology and processes, yet the Mexican automotive industry still has few companies with laboratories or departments focused on this area. Grupo Gonher provides an example of how a strong R&D department, as well as a clear business vision, can position a company as a leader in its sector. Conceived in Monterrey as a small family business dedicated to filter manufacturing, the enterprise is now a group that holds six different companies and has diversified its market into the production and sale of lubricants and batteries. 

Grupo Gonher manufactures filters, lubricants, and batteries for both light and heavy duty vehicles while being one of the few companies that produce all the parts for its products. The company supplies filters to OEMs such as Ford, Nissan, GM, and Chrysler, while its plants produce Grupo Gonher’s own brands, as well as products for clients’ brands. “Being able to offer this kind of service is the result of our quality constantly topping that of original equipment,” says Rodrigo González Calderón, CEO of Grupo Gonher. Nonetheless, Grupo Gonher has to face the competition’s low-priced products in some areas. The company finds it difficult to compete on a purely price basis with cheap, low-quality merchandise and even illegally imported products. González Calderón underlines that unlike with Grupo Gonher, quality is not the main concern of all providers out there. “We are able to compete in the market by focusing on productivity and efficiency, which maintain the quality of our products, and keeping costs at a fair rate.” A further area of strength that Grupo Gonher can count on is its distribution network, according to González Calderón. The company has more than 36 direct distribution centers throughout Mexico, 120 in the US, and three in Costa Rica. In Mexico, the network can also count on almost 20,000 shops located across the country that sell Grupo Gonher’s products. Its products can be found in over 22 countries, and the company is focusing on increasing its exports with plans to sell 50% of its product catalogue abroad.

González Calderón emphasizes the efforts the company puts in R&D, as it conducts meticulous research projects and documents all internal processes to increase the quality of its products. “The company understands the dynamics of the automotive industry, which is why we have one of the most complete laboratories in Latin America to develop cutting-edge technology for filters, oil, and heavy duty equipment, among others.” This laboratory is certified by the Mexican Organization of Accreditation (EMA), the General Directorate for Standards (DGN), and by the Ministry of Economy. According to González Calderón, Grupo Gonher’s laboratory also contains some of Mexico’s most qualified and specialized technical staff. “This ensures  that the latest needs and trends in the automotive industry are reflected by our research in materials, new processes, new equipment, and new products.” Grupo Gonher has even introduced nanotechnology into its laboratory and has participated in research projects conducted by CONACYT and CIMAV in this domain. These studies led Grupo Gonher to launch Gonher Nanotek®, a line of high- quality lubricants for gas, diesel, and industrial engines. Grupo Gonher’s battery company, Enerya, has a technology partnership with East Penn Manufacturing to manufacture lubricants and batteries, and develop new technologies to cover client needs in the US and Mexico. Collaborations with OEMs are also common for Grupo Gonher, particularly when developing new solutions for filters. Apart from industrial R&D, the company collaborates with ITESM and with the University of Monterrey to promote research activities at the academic level.

In 2009, when most automotive companies were struggling and many went bankrupt, Grupo Gonher was able to do something that few could: it grew. The company acquired Mighty Auto Parts which helped it expand in the US market. “The Mighty Auto Parts business was a good match for us in terms of expertise,” says González Calderón about the first acquisition his company made outside Mexico. Grupo Gonher is now searching for new partners that could help it further expand its presence in the US and South America. Although González Calderón asserts that Mexico will remain the company’s most important market, he views entering the US and the Latin American markets as an important step to secure the group’s future.”