Hendrickson eyes India's air suspension market, expected to surpass 1 lakh units by 2027
Mohit Khosla, whole-time director and CEO for India and the Middle East stated that the Indian market currently witnesses an annual demand of about 40,000 trailers, with mechanical suspensions accounting for about 70% of the market share.
Hendrickson, a US-based supplier of parts to commercial vehicle manufacturers, is keeping an eye on the country's rapidly evolving air suspension market, which is expected to surpass 1 lakh units by 2027 and is expanding at a CAGR of 30%.
Mohit Khosla, whole-time director and CEO for India and the Middle East stated that the Indian market currently witnesses an annual demand of about 40,000 trailers, with mechanical suspensions accounting for about 70% of the market share. Khosla added that the transition to air suspensions has started and will pick up speed as the road infrastructure expands and customer expectations push the adoption of new technologies.
Elaborating further, he continued that on the tractor-trailer side, company management has been monitoring the situation for the past couple of years. Although the pandemic severely affected the tractor-trailer industry, it has since experienced a resurgence, largely because of required axle norms and a reduction in GST, among other factors.
When compared to more sophisticated air suspension, mechanical suspension, which employs springs and shock absorbers to absorb road shocks and keep the vehicle's wheels in contact with the ground, has few disadvantages in terms of driver fatigue and cost-effectiveness. For instance, the springs in a mechanical suspension are made to only be able to handle a certain amount of road shock. This might result in a rough ride, especially on unpaved roads. Second, a mechanical suspension's spring rate cannot be changed to accommodate different loads because it is fixed. This implies that if the truck or bus is hauling a heavy load, the ride quality may suffer.
However, air suspension can be altered to maintain the vehicle's height regardless of the load. Stability is enhanced as a result.
Air suspension has clear advantages, but it comes at a higher initial cost for fleet owners. According to an estimate, the cost of air suspension can increase by anywhere between 5 and 10%, depending on the application. The price rises by just under 1% for all vehicles, the company's top leadership told Autocar Professional.
Matthew Joy, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hendrickson, explained that their experience with other markets has been that initially, the adoption of any superior technology remains slow, requiring a leap of faith for OEMs and fleet operators. Even though fleet operators may understand the benefits intellectually, they won't act until they see the impact on their bottom line. "We're waiting for that tipping point to happen in India," said Joy.
Talking about the company's TA 14 heavy-duty air suspension, the management pointed out that it has been designed with Indian road construction in mind and comes in top and low mount variants, offering numerous options to customers based on their application requirements. Further, it claims the suspension is the lightest suspension system amongst its peers in the market, and offers higher payload capability. It is suitable for various applications, including flat beds, containers, tankers, bulkers, sidewalls, and tip trailers, it added.
Hendrickson, a Boler company, is a leading global manufacturer and supplier of medium- and heavy-duty mechanical, elastomeric and air suspensions; integrated and non-integrated axle and brake systems; tyre pressure control systems; auxiliary lift axles systems; parabolic and multi-leaf springs; stabilisers; bumpers; and components to the global commercial transportation industry.
The company entered India in 2006 through a joint venture with Tata AutoComp Systems and, in 2011, incorporated a 100% subsidiary named Watson & Chalin India Pvt. Ltd. to expand its manufacturing footprint for truck and trailer products and serve as a manufacturing base to support global customers in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
To cater to this growing market, Hendrickson in India is introducing a dual brand strategy of bringing premium products under the Hendrickson brand and cost-effective, locally manufactured products under the Watson & Chalin brand. These options will offer solutions to a wide base of customers, all of whom have different business challenges that need to be addressed.
Even though the company did not reveal the financials, the information sourced from Tofler, a data analysis firm, reveals Watson & Chalin India Private Ltd reported Rs 61 crore in revenue for the year ending March 2022 and a net profit of Rs 5.01 crore. Tata Autocomp Hendrickson Suspension Pvt. Ltd. reported Rs 465.66 crore in revenue for the year ending March 2023 and a net profit of Rs 65.43 crore.
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