"With all of the technology that's out there in communications and order processing and everything, racing is still a people-to-people, face-to-face business," said Ron Hix, national sales manager for Auburn Gear, Auburn, Indiana, outlining one of the many reasons that company is returning to the PRI Trade Show for 2012. "It's not complicated," he added, "this is the heart of our customer base, allowing us to make personal contact with our existing customers, as well as potential new customers, and to get a feel for where the market is going and what the trends are."
Auburn Gear, which last exhibited in the PRI Trade Show in 2005, has more than 60 years experience designing and manufacturing a wide range of geared products for the automotive and other industries in its 250,000-square-foot facility in the American heartland. The company's high-performance, limited-slip differentials are widely used in the motorsports market for street/strip, racing and off-road applications.
"At PRI, we'll be showing a complete line of our limited-slip differentials, and putting some major emphasis on a relatively new product called the ECTED Max, which is really two differentials in one," said Hix, noting that the unit works as a limited-slip when it's in normal mode, but can be easily changed to a full locker with the flip of an in-cockpit switch, giving both axles 100 percent torque transfer. "Not only don't you have to get out of the vehicle to make the change, but you can do it on the fly at moderate speeds," he added.
"Other companies have electric lockers, as they're called, but when you turn the locker off, it becomes an open differential, whereas ours reverts back to a limited-slip," explained Hix. "So we've really combined the best of both worlds: our limited-slip technology and capability, along with an electronic full locker in one product."
No stranger to extreme-duty components, Auburn Gear is currently working with the military on a beefed-up version of the ECTED Max that will eventually cross over into the rough-and-tumble off-road racing market. "Those units are currently in operation going through severe-duty testing and doing quite well," revealed Hix. "We'll have one of the prototypes at PRI and explain some of the things we're doing," he promised.
With all of its facilities, from engineering to manufacturing, located in the US, Hix said it gives Auburn the opportunity to respond quickly to consumer demand and to create purpose-built products. "We have a very deep engineering department and have the capability to collaborate with distributors who may have a market for a special product," he said. "If you want a true quality, US-built differential product, we are the company to see."
Auburn sells exclusively through performance WDs and will be looking to meet with those folks and perhaps fill any gaps that might exist in its distribution, particularly in overseas markets where the company may not be represented. "If there is a market opportunity that goes into a geographic area or a new market that we haven't tapped into, then we would consider it," he said. "That's part of our decision in being there, as well."
Just as importantly, however, Hix said that he and his colleagues are eager to meet with "the people who actually put their hands on our product and put it in the vehicle--the jobbers, retailers, car builders, and crew chiefs who come through. It's always amazing to me when I come to this show and see who the actual people are setting up and manning the booths. It's the owners of the companies, the sales managers...it's just a tradition that we are a hands-on industry. To me, the face-to-face contact is 100 times better than doing email or something, and is what keeps our industry going."