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Rachel Hartman reports on this global-reaching, fast-growing company, and the innovative strategies that have steered its direction from the very beginning.
When clients come to AirDesign, the company offers them an efficient, results-driven process, beginning with the concept design. “Between 90 and 95 percent of the products are designed by us for clients,” explains Miguel Avalos, Jr., CEO of the company. AirDesign focuses most of its activities in the auto industry and specialty equipment. It designs, develops, and produces original accessory components in plastic, aluminum and steel, for both exterior and interior applications in passenger vehicles. It also produces special editions of vehicles. AirDesign has operations in other industries as well, including medical, transport, industrial, and pet segments.
While it operates in large industries, the company has found a way to carve out a niche for itself in each of these. “We’ve developed a technology that can develop parts with prototyping,” notes Avalos.
In all, the family-owned company has approximately 400 employees. Of these, 50 are based in the company’s office and headquarters in Mexico City; the other 350 workers are in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where AirDesign has its design center and manufacturing facility.
The facilities in Cuernavaca, Mexico, sport the latest technology and robotic equipment, as well as advanced software. All of these features have helped the company rise to the top of its industry in the vehicle personalization industry. It serves as a tier 1 supplier for auto assembly plants, and also has a network of 1,000 distributors.
Innovative from the Start
Even before members of the Avalos family launched AirDesign, they had a special interest in aerodynamics. In the winter of 1984, Miguel Avalos Sr. and his two sons set out in a handmade double engine, six wheel drive Liberty I Camper. Departing from Mexico City, the family embarked on a 40,000-kilometer on and off road expedition. The father and sons first headed north along the Pacific Coast, and drove all the way to the Arctic Circle. Then they traveled south, making their way back through the Gulf of Mexico.
Along the way, the crew tested advanced aerodynamics and innovative composite construction in extreme weather conditions. The temperatures ranged from 40 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius below zero. In all, the trip took three months to complete. At times, the family covered up to 1,000 kilometers a day on Arctic soil.
“We wanted to go where humans don’t trek,” explains Avalos. The trip helped the family gain the knowledge and experience that, several years later, would serve as a propelling force to start a company dedicated to innovative auto design.
In 1991, the family launched the firm AirDesign. In its first year of operations, the company introduced the Suburban Air Flex styling kit. Several years later, it redesigned F3 Corona Championship race cars. Then in 1998, the firm expanded its manufacturing plant. During the process, it doubled the plant’s original indoor surface, creating a new version that measured 12,000 square meters.
In 2000, AirDesign opened new sales offices and a service center in Mexico City. During the following years, the company continued to grow and expand. In 2005, it created a new building dedicated to advanced design and product development. Five years later, in 2010, it produced Ford Colombia Special Editions for Ecosport, Edge, and Fiesta.
As it grew in the automotive industry, it also branched out into other areas that had a need for specific parts and prototyping. With its quick turnaround time and ability to product specialty products, AirDesign quickly found itself in high demand, both in Mexico and countries around the world.
In the past five years, the company has had double digit growth in its sales. Avalos credits much of this success to the company’s ability to adapt to the ever-changing conditions in the automotive industry.
Another component that has helped with the increase in sales can be seen in the firm’s grasp of globalization. Today, more than 80 percent of its sales are exported. “We’ve grown from a local company to an exporting one,” notes Avalos.
That reach into a global world has led the company to direct its sales to countries around the world. Of its exports, AirDesign concentrates most of its efforts in South America, reaching places like Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, and Chile. It also sends products to Central America and the United States. A small percentage of exports are shipped to Japan and diverse countries in Europe. In all, it exports – either directly or indirectly – to more than 30 countries. Its client list includes Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Seat, and many other established global firms.
The company also prides itself in its flexibility in the market. It is able to respond quickly to the changing needs of clients. “We have record development times,” notes Avalos. In each of the markets it operates, AirDesign has a product ready to sell every three days.
One of the recent projects the company took on involves the taxis being developed for New York City. AirDesign is currently putting together various parts for Nissan that will be used in the new version of the New York taxi.
Since its founding in 1991, AirDesign has actively sought ways to develop and support sustainability projects. This was recognized early on. In 1995, just several years after AirDesign was established, the United Nations awarded the company with the Ozone Preservation Act Prize.
This eco-focus has continued over the years. Recently, the firm’s design and engineering department in Cuernavaca developed a system to reuse 100 percent of the company’s plastic waste. In this setup, all of the plastic scrap is saved to manufacture bricks. The process, which involves mixing the plastic with cement, is carried out by the company. “These bricks are then given to the people according to a merit system,” explains Avalos. By sharing the blocks with its workers, the company enables them to build, or add on to, their own homes.
In addition to finding its place in the environment, AirDesign has settled into a unique position in the market. To do this, the company has maintained a focus on filling specific gaps that are present in prominent segments. “In many large industries, such as the auto one, large international companies tend to cover the majority of the necessities,” notes Avalos. “Medium-sized companies can cover holes that these large companies leave behind.”
Over the years, this strategy has enabled AirDesign to not only find its own key niches in the market, but also dominate those areas.
Looking into the future, the company plans to keep building on the foundation it has created. “We want to make the most of what we have in Mexico, and keep serving other markets,” says Avalos. The company plans to continue spreading its global presence as well. To do this, AirDesign will keep its focus on designing and creating innovative products for the specific needs of world-renowned firms.