Leading shock absorber and suspension components manufacturer Sabo Hema Automotive India has primarily been catering to the commercial vehicle segment in India. Auto Tech Review recently caught up with SN Ahmed, CEO, Sabo Hema Automotive India to understand the current state of technology adoption in the suspension domain and the future trends.
The company’s focus in the hydraulic shock absorber segment has been on producing high quality products at low cost in order to serve a broader spectrum of OEMs and stay competitive at the global level. Heavy commercial vehicles (HCVs) have been a key focus area for Sabo Hema and it has been working closely with OEMs like Ashok Leyland, Daimler, Volvo and Isuzu. Sabo Hema’s strategy is to proactively advance its technological support and personalised design to customers.
STATE OF TECHNOLOGY
The shock absorber technology in the CV domain is currently in its fourth generation based on hydraulics. Given the constant up-scaling and up-gradation, multiple damper effects can be achieved from a single unit. The company is working on an adjustable suspension set-up, which fine-tunes itself depending on the road conditions.
The need for advanced suspension technology earlier was not considered important for vehicle safety. However, given the increasing freight movement and logistics and more advanced supply chain management (SCM), the damping requirements for CVs have evolved. This has resulted in quantum changes in infrastructure and coupled with global exposure to latest technologies, the focus areas have also changed, said Ahmed. The shock absorber industry has benefited due to this transformation and has started benchmarking quality standards.
Comfort, control and safety are the key factors determining a robust transport system. Given the increasing speed levels on roads over the years, all these three factors are put to test and the suspension system plays a vital role in ensuring all the parameters are ticked. OEMs, fleet owners and transport authorities have realised the importance of providing a plush ride to the driver as well as ensure cargo safety. International standards also require adhering to various stringent guidelines for efficient logistics.
In terms of quality and standardisation, the Indian shock absorber industry has performed well as compared to global players due to active benchmarking. Ahmed said Indian suppliers are yet to reach international standards in terms of technological advancements, but in terms of the output provided, they are meeting all the quality norms of OEMs. Indian suppliers’ biggest advantage is their price competitiveness and it is this factor that has enabled Sabo Hema to find markets in Europe and Australia. The company intends to tap newer avenues as per demand requirements.
JV WITH POWERDOWN
The suspension technology is fast changing from leaf spring type to air suspensions in global markets. Powerdown Australia had recently picked up 1/3rd equity in Sabo Hema to better address the Indian market. Ahmed said this move will provide Powerdown reliable supply for their product range, manage & control standards and quality for their products as well as provide backward integration by entering manufacturing for an extended range of products.
Through this tie-up, Sabo Hema gets environmentally diversified product ranges, and access to established markets in the Asia-Pacific market. Both partners will be able to share their technical knowhow and experience for a wide range of products. The joint venture intends to roll out products for the mass market, as it will help bring down prices. The replacement market has not fetched volumes for shock absorber manufacturers, but this JV is expected to open up the OEM segment for Powerdown in India as well, Ahmed stated.
PASSENGER VEHICLE SEGMENT
Sabo Hema wants to replicate its expertise in the CV segment to the dynamic and fast-evolving passenger vehicle segment as well. The company plans to target the SUV segment that is witnessing a lot of action. Ahmed said that for a CV supplier, foraying into the SUV segment is a natural transition, as both verticals have robust credentials. The non-SUV segment requires better NVH levels and plusher ride quality, which would entail further R&D and quality testing.
However, the company is keen on entering this segment in the future, and work is already underway at Sabo Hema’s Indian facilities and Powerdown’s Australia plant to become competitive in this domain as well. The company also plans to target the high-end SUV market in India, which has quality standards similar to executive sedans and premium hatchbacks, Ahmed pointed out.
Suspension requirements are expected to become easier for EVs because the captive load will be much lower than current CVs, said Ahmed. The absence of a powertrain will substantially bring down vehicle mass, which will not require massive technological leapfrogging. The comfort and control aspects will be taken care of to a large extent due to this drop in weight. The safety aspect will depend on the prevailing road conditions and the government mandates.
TEXT: Anwesh Koley