Personalized Bodywork Solutions for Bespoek DesignMon, 09/01/2014 - 12:26
As personalization has become an important characteristic in the automotive industry, niche-oriented companies have grown more powerful. In the North American market alone, the aftermarket for specialty equipment is a US$45 billion industry. Miguel Ávalos Sartorio, Director General of Air Design, sees this as offering major potential. But as he points out, the opportunities in the market might be great but as norms and validation procedures become more demanding, it is mandatory to fully understand the market before entering it. “Air Design has had to understand the market very well when offering its services. This enables us to increase the premium feel of cars through unique technological and design elements for bodywork, accessories, and interiors. Air Design’s operations cover all aspects of specialty equipment development, from concept design to rapid prototyping. We do our own production in- house and are focused on developing and designing special edition series to avoid competing against huge global companies,” says Ávalos Sartorio.
Air Design started as a small family business but has since grown to provide personalized bodywork solutions for over 30,000 cars from different OEMs. Although the company does not provide its services in large quantities, Ávalos Sartorio says it is recognized as a Tier 1 supplier for OEMs. Air Design is currently focusing on accessing markets in Central and South America. It is already working with one of the largest car manufacturers in Brazil but is looking to explore opportunities in other markets like Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina. Ávalos Sartorio even adds that smaller Central American countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama are beginning to see demand for vehicle personalization. In Mexico, one of Air Design’s flagship successes has been its collaboration with Mexican sports carmaker VUHL. The second version of the VUHL 05 is planned for release in 2015, with Air Design having contributed to its design by working on the development of its front windshield and body painting.
Air Design has also worked with recognized brands beyond Mexico’s borders. It has teamed up with Volkswagen on new features for the Beetle, including a new spoiler and aerodynamic elements. The company also supplies the styling kits for the Jetta A6, Golf, and Polo. Apart from Volkswagen, Air Design has designed and produced styling kits, spoilers, and other lightweight plastic parts for some models of GM, Ford, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Renault, Seat, Mazda, and Nissan. One interesting project is the involvement of Air Design in the development of the roof lamp for the updated version of the Nissan NV200 that will serve as the New York taxi, now being produced in Morelos. “It is a really great project for us as it gives us good exposure,” comments Ávalos. He explains
Air Design was chosen by Nissan Japan as the company was prepared to work with smaller orders than major automotive lighting suppliers. With technological advances within vehicles coming faster, Ávalos Sartorio understands the need to be at the forefront of trends, materials, and production technology. “Our reaction timeframe has become extremely fast and we can turn our products into a reality for our customers extremely quickly.” For example, the company has developed fast prototyping technology and soft tools for injection, combining speed with technological adaptability.
Ávalos Sartorio foresees that OEMs may start producing special edition series in Mexico within a couple of years, which is where Air Design comes in. “We offer innovative and cost- effective solutions that enable auto manufacturers to make an impact in the market. When a particular model reaches the peak of its lifespan, the car needs a new fresh image. For an OEM, the process will take a long time but Air Design can come up with a new design quickly,” says Ávalos Sartorio. “Air Design sends systematic drawings and bespoke design suggestions to OEMs for their approval, making proposals that suppliers focused on higher volume orders are often not willing to take on.”
According to Ávalos Sartorio, Air Design’s multicultural approach to business has proven to be an asset in terms of bringing in state-of-the-art technology from around the world, while staying ahead of the latest automotive design, technology, and material trends. Air Design accentuates this point by hiring industrial designers and engineers from other countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, Australia, England, the US, and Canada. This is not because it sees Mexican professionals as incapable of doing the job. “Some of the best designers we have had have been Mexican. Mexicans have a fantastic work ethic, they are reliable skilled workers with the will to learn,” explains Ávalos Sartorio. The reason Air Design hires an international team is to ensure it develops a global vision to its business. As niche markets grow in importance around the globe, that vision may well come to fruition. For Ávalos Sartorio, a desire for personalization is no longer limited and consumers in Brazil are just as aware of the latest advances in products ranging from spoilers to on- board entertainment as German consumers.