Truck suspension systems, air disc brake market: SAF-Holland Q&A

Executive interview outtakes: Kent Jones, SAF-Holland

Editing means that a lot of great info gets left on the cutting room floor. Maybe the story is too long. Maybe it doesn’t fit the narrative pace. Maybe there’s no good place to insert a cool factoid. That doesn’t mean that it’s not insightful. It just means that after writing a story I get to comb through all the great quotes I couldn’t use and collect them here to share with you.

If you haven’t read our cover story that brings you into the head office of Kent Jones, SAF-Holland President – Americas, click here to read that first. Then tab back here for the cool bonus content.

Back? Great. Here’s Kent on …

What’s driving SAF-Holland growth: product features or ease of spec’ing a suspension system that unifies trailer suspensions across different nameplates?

“I think it’s both of those, but it depends on the point of view. From the fleet user’s perspective, they look at having one supplier for that entire system and feel comfortable in having local SAF-Holland field support and direct engineering support and a common design across their fleet. In fact, they may even choose a SAF suspension, axle and wheel end and then buy from two or three different trailer makers.

“We have a very strong and very supportive field sales organization and aftermarket. We have five distribution centers in North America. That’s a big deal for a company of our size. It provides support for near-next day service. The fleet customers like that, so they have SAF suspensions, SAF axles, and SAF drum or air disc brake wheel-ends.

“From an OEM trailer manufacturer perspective, we can deliver an entire air ride or spring ride axle system module to them. We make it easy for them to outsource some of that content from their trailer manufacturing site. It helps increase their throughput through their trailer manufacturing. So when they build these types of systems, they can focus on what they’re great at, which is building and designing the trailer body, and we do what we’re great at: building and designing and line sequencing the axle and wheel-end assembly.”

Air disc brake market penetration

“It’s about 15% and increasing on the trailer side. On the tractor side, it’s much, much higher—about 40% to 50%. But of the trailer side of the business, we are a market share leader. We may be 50% to 60% of that 15%. Globally, we bring scale at approximately 750,000 air disc brake axles a year. Then we bring those into the U.S. marketplace with that scale to bring the cost down closer to the drum brake side of the business.”

Building brand loyalty

“There are a lot of studies on consumer behavior relative to service events and brand loyalty. If a customer had a service event and it didn’t go well, then, of course, they feel negatively about that brand. But, if they had a service event and the remedy went well, they are typically even more brand loyal than if they didn’t have an event at all. Of course, no one wants a service event, but they happen. If you had one you can remedy, then you can build a business as a longstanding brand.”

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