Dutch company Valx is not new to the European trailer axle market anymore, yet hasn’t quite managed to break into the industry’s top echelon just yet. With the help of Fuwa K-Hitch, that could now change.
It’s fair to say that the official launch of the Valx brand at the 2010 IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Germany was a game-changing moment for the European trailer axle industry. Then part of Holland’s MCB Group, the novice seemingly ignored the traditional market hierarchy and staged itself as a fresh alternative to the German establishment – boasting a distinct international edge and a firm commitment to innovation.
Helped by a stunning visual campaign rolled out both traditionally and online, the young brand’s British Racing Green-inspired colour scheme quickly gained traction in the market and would have probably caused the competition some serious embarrassment had the trailer market not slowed down so dramatically in 2011 and beyond – not just because of smart publicity, but also because of the convincing value proposition behind it.
Even with the Eurozone crisis silhouetted against the horizon, though, Valx’ integrated axle module – combining innovative componentry supplied by Fuwa, Wabco, TMD, Timken, SKF and VDL Weweler in a price competitive package – left a notable impact on the market and earned the company a fan base stretching from Portugal’s Atlantic coast all the way to the Russian capital of Moscow.
In 2014, with Europe slowly recovering and Valx studiously stealing market share from the powerful German competition, Australian Fuwa-subsidiary, Fuwa K-Hitch, stepped onto the scene to acquire what had hitherto been but a – somewhat nonconventional – client business. Sensing the disruptive potential behind the brand, Fuwa K-Hitch hoped it would be able to bring the necessary firing power to the table to help Valx shake up the market once more and finally break into the top three of the European sales ranking.
To do so, Fuwa K-Hitch installed a completely new management team led by Joop Arends as Managing Director and Martin van Willingen as Sales Director, and moved the Valx head office to a new location in Veghel, The Netherlands. From here – with guidance from the new Australian parent and an ever-present, highly ambitious and equally resourceful Chinese mother ship – the company is now ready to take on the establishment once again.
“Via Fuwa K-Hitch, we are now officially part of the global Fuwa family, so it’s been quite a substantial evolutionary leap for our small company,” explains Joop. “Fuwa is the biggest axle manufacturer in the world and has already opened a lot of doors for us in the market to ensure our product will be even more competitive in the future. Product development, for example, has been accelerated extremely by being so close to our main supplier, and the input we’ve received from our new sister companies in Australia, China and the US has been invaluable too. For our customers, however, the main message is that our new parent is a company with the same core business as us – axles.”
From a brand perspective, however, Joop says not a lot has changed. “Even now under new ownership, we will continue to operate independently and deliver a high-end European product. What has changed is the scope of our operation, though: Helped by Fuwa-K-Hitch, we’ve quickly learned that the Valx product is suitable for export markets outside of Europe, too.
“Quite a few of those markets use specifications that are comparable to, or derived from, European standards, and many of them value our robust design – so we see a lot more opportunities globally today than we’ve seen in the past. Of course it also helps that the product had had time to prove itself in the field over the past five or six years, because now we know just how versatile it is, both on and off the highway.”
With the dynamic of the trailer axle market in Europe very similar to trailer building itself, where two big market leaders are followed a range of contenders for the number three spot, Joop says the revitalised Valx business has “all the potential” to become a top three player over the next five years or so. “There is no doubt that when Valx first came into the market, people looked at it with a certain amount of caution – some deliberately taking the time to see how the product performed over the long run before committing to it,” he explains.
“But now that we are 100 per cent owned by a global powerhouse like Fuwa, there is obviously a lot more brand integrity and staying power behind it, which has helped us gain the same kind of trust from the market our competition has.”
Fast Fact: Made by Fuwa, the Valx axle is based on a seamless, cold-drawn and non-welded beam structure to eliminate the risk of weakening or material degradation. As a result, the Fuwa axle beam is said to have a high strength-to-weight ratio.