By Allan Janssen
Two automotive trends have come together to create new opportunities for aftermarket chassis and suspension manufacturers.
On the one hand, public appetite for robust SUVs and light trucks has grown dramatically in recent years. Indeed, by some measure three out of every four new vehicles sold in North America last year was an SUV, CUV, or light truck.
On the other hand, strict emissions targets and cost-cutting efforts have led vehicle manufacturers to remove as much weight as they can from undercar components and simplify their chassis and suspension designs.
The conflicting nature of these trends has opened the door to aftermarket manufacturers like Mevotech and KYB to beef up their products and help meet driver expectations for the look, performance, and durability of their vehicles.
KYB, for example, has recently released a bevy of new “Truck-Plus” numbers, including a performance assembly, and leveling kits designed to improve the ride and appearance of light trucks.
According to Aaron Shaffer, director of product and operations for KYB Americas, it’s a fairly new category for the Greenwood, Ind.-based company.
“We started talking about this late last year,” he said. “Historically, every shock manufacturer had some kind of truck upgrade offering. But this business has really exploded. If anything, the pandemic helped it, as people found themselves with time and government cheques in their hands.”
Truck owners are looking for sturdier alternatives and accessories that enhance the look of the vehicle, he said.
Meanwhile, Toronto-based chassis manufacturer Mevotech is seeing great success with its TTX line of control arms, ball joints, tie rod ends, and stabilizer links.
Victor Moreira, technical services manager at Mevotech, told participants in a recent technical webinar that OE design changes have created a demand for sturdier, heavier replacement parts that will perform well and can take a lot of abuse.
In counterpoint to flimsier OE parts, Mevotech is replacing polymer bearings with sintered metal bearings, increasing the thickness and weight of crucial chassis parts, applying corrosion protection to exposed parts, and adding design elements that improve installation, seating, and service.
“TTX parts were designed for working vehicles, where the down-time caused by failures can often be more expensive than the repair itself,” said Moreira. “It is designed to address common issues that we’ve seen both in the bays and in the field.”
He describes what has happened to original equipment parts constitutes a “de-evolution” in the quest for lower production costs and safer emissions. As an engineering company, Mevotech can exercise complete control over their materials and designs to resolve OE design issues, he said. The company’s four-pillared strategy for TTX is to reduce component wear with stronger materials and better designs, prevent water ingress and contamination, minimize corrosion, and simplify installation procedures.
According to Shaffer, there is a wide range of light-truck owners – each with different needs and expectations.
Among them are those who use their vehicle as a daily driver, where “the bed of the truck never gets dirty” as well as those “who use their truck as a truck.”
Either way, there’s a growing audience for robust aftermarket products that make the vehicle look a little more aggressive, or perform better and longer.
“The demographics are in the aftermarket’s favour, he said. With OE part numbers lasting through multiple model years, applicable to millions of vehicles on North American roads, the opportunities are enormous.
“These are not niche vehicles,” he said.