Mexican Design Makes its Way into OEM StyleSat, 09/01/2018 - 11:14
Q: How have Air Design’s operations developed during the contraction in the domestic market?
A: The customization and accessories market does not depend on how the general industry moves. On the contrary, when new-vehicle sales decrease, distributors must find new ways to compete and maintain operations profitable in a contracting market. Vehicle customization and sales of special edition units present an excellent alternative. For Air Design, 2018 has been a good year and we expect to close the year with 20 percent growth in sales compared to 2017.
Having said that, the industry has become extremely dynamic and that presents a challenge for our operations. All plants are renovating their portfolios and that means Air Design has to keep up with the design of customization kits for each of these models. As examples, Volkswagen has the new Jetta, Kia is introducing a renovated Forte and GM is pushing its new Cavalier and Aveo units very aggressively.
Q: What strategies has the company implemented to boost its growing operations?
A: Our company already enjoys a good position among OEMs in Mexico, Central and South America. We have implemented several strategies to make our operations more competitive and we now install our components at OEM manufacturing sites in special sections called Modification Centers and entry ports. Today, we are already working with Ford, Kia, Volkswagen, Nissan, General Motors and several other companies. Other Special Editions by Air Design for the Kia Rio Cross Hatchback and Sedan are now assembled in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and soon in South Africa and Australia. Moreover, at the last SEMA Show in Las Vegas and at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the new Kia Stinger GT Federation designed and equipped with the body-styling kit from Air Design was named Best of Show.
We have special edition vehicles displayed on the sales floor of many distributors thanks to a much closer contact with these players. Air Design has incremented its sales force numbers to visit dealerships in Mexico City and other states, thus generating demand for special editions and customized components. We loan our components and customization equipment to distributors so more clients are aware of what they can purchase and as a result, we get more orders from OEMs to equip vehicles at their plants with our products.
Q: When is the ideal moment for dealerships to market Air Design’s products?
A: The ideal moment to sell a special edition or customization kit is before the sale of the unit is completed. The client can negotiate financing terms based on the cost of the vehicle and its accessories. After that, there is a window of five months when clients tend to return to the dealership to equip the vehicle. It is not that common for customers to ask for customized components after this period.
Q: How ready is Mexico to participate in design operations and evolve beyond a manufacturing center?
A: Mexico is full of talent. GM has over 2,000 engineers in Toluca designing components and Ford also has thousands of engineers in Santa Fe designing body parts. Design software has become universal and it has lessened the dependence companies might have on the experience and artistic sensibility of Italian and other European experts. Every day, more companies are delving into design operations and even universities are becoming more involved in providing students with the necessary tools to participate in these activities.
Air Design is actually having trouble retaining its talent. We train our personnel and take them to the highest level possible, which means they sometimes receive generous offers from companies in the US or Europe. Mexico has the challenge of generating sufficient talent to cover the demand for growing design and engineering operations. Beyond having the capability to design mechanical components, academic institutions should also incentivize aesthetic design operations.