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Brake pads: Uncertainty gives rise to diverse strategies

Projections for 2010 range from cautious to optimistic, spurring expanded product selections and services.

In the aftermath of a difficult business period, China suppliers of brake pads and shoes have different outlooks for the next 12 months. This has prompted a range of strategies aimed at various markets.

Brake pad
  The D154 GDB1272 model from Xiapu Joyyoung is a semimetallic brake pad that can last 30,000 kilometers.

At one end of the discussion are manufacturers looking forward to stronger overseas demand in line with recovering economies. After experiencing fl at sales if not outright declines in revenue last year, these enterprises are anticipating proceeds from exports to exceed 10 percent.

A number of companies are not as optimistic, believing markets still need time to recuperate before demand reverts to precrisis levels. They are also wary of rising raw material costs, since price competition is expected to intensify as suppliers jockey for better positions.

Diverse perspectives can be seen in terms of target areas as well. Some suppliers, Xiapu Joyyoung Friction Industry Co. Ltd among them, have their sights on Eastern Europe and South America for growth. Others, including Ningbo Maojia International Trading Co. Ltd and Haiyan Zhenda Automobile Fittings Fty, prefer to steer clear of emerging economies, as orders from these areas are not as stable as those from developed countries.

To fortify their positions in chosen destinations and improve margins, a number of makers are expanding their selections to include ceramic-based models. Ningbo Maojia, for instance, started test marketing a series at the end of 2009.

Meant for luxury and high-performance vehicles, only a few suppliers offer ceramic pads and shoes due to their complex formulation, which can include from 18 to 20 compounds. Upcoming releases are expected to be priced 30 to 70 percent higher than existing semimetallic designs.

Some companies are taking a different tack and focusing on services to attract more clients. Xiapu Joyyoung, for instance, has upgraded its R&D capability to be able to provide countersamples within a week. The supplier is offering the service free of charge for a minimum order of 100 sets.

Products & prices
Products & prices

The majority of China-made brake pads and shoes remain heavily oriented toward light vehicles such as passenger cars and minivans. Only a few manufacturers offer designs for buses and trucks.

Marketed in sets of four for the front or rear wheels, models are classifi ed either as asbestos or asbestos-free. The latter is subdivided further into semimetallic and nonasbestos organic or NAO variants.

Asbestos designs, priced at less than $4.50 per set, account for about 30 percent of output. The line's share has been going down in recent years due to occupational and environmental regulations limiting the use of the material in the US, the EU and other markets. Following this, several carmakers also phased out asbestos components in their latest releases, prompting replacement parts to come in asbestos-free versions as well.

In the nonasbestos segment, semimetallic types dominate production. Priced up to 20 percent higher than asbestos versions, these consist of seven or eight materials held together by a resin. Among the common options are steel wool and iron powder.

Because of their high metal content, models in this segment offer greater friction coefficients and good thermal stability. The products, however, wear out discs or drums faster and generate more noise than other types.

NAO brake pads and shoes are fitted with linings composed of about 17 materials, with glass, carbon and aromatic polyamide or aramid fiber among the common choices. Because they are inherently softer, these emit less noise than semimetallic versions, and corrode discs and drums at a slower pace.

Models in the category are mainly suitable for light-duty purposes such as low-speed vehicles or those used only on paved roads. Limiting the line's application is the fact that most formulations from China still cannot match the wear rate and performance of semimetallic designs in severe and high-speed driving conditions.

Ceramic-based pads and shoes combine the advantages of semimetallic and other NAO types. Being nonabrasive, these can withstand braking temperatures of up to 800 C with less fading. They also generate minimal noise, and protect rotors and drums against wear. Models release only a small amount of dust as well, preventing accumulation of such in the wheels.

Prices of ceramic-based sets start at about $9. Currently, the category constitutes about 10 percent of China's brake pads and shoes output, but the share is expected to increase as more carmakers employ them in luxury and high-performance vehicles.

The country is home to more than 800 manufacturers of brake pads and shoes. Local, privately owned enterprises constitute over 95 percent of the supplier base.

The industry is highly concentrated, with about 10 companies accounting for 70 percent of output. Operating factories 10,000sqm or larger, these businesses are capable of turning out 10 million sets annually. Sales exceed $14 million each year.

Such makers have at least 800 employees, including 50each in R&D and QC.

This article "Brake pads: Uncertainty gives rise to diverse strategies" is originally posted in Global Sources.

Note: All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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