Sangsin (pronounced sang-shin) is one of the biggest brake pad manufacturers in the world, boasting 12 factories, 2,000 employees, and about 200 engineers. The South Korean company has enjoyed a close relationship with Hyundai and Kia and is a leading global OE supplier. Its Hi-Q brand is one of the best-selling aftermarket brands around the world.
But in North America, Sangsin has taken a different path. It’s Hi-Q aftermarket brand is not sold in the U.S. or Canada, and there are no plans to ever sell it outside of niche importers.
Instead, in North America Sangsin emphasizes private label manufacturing to complement its OE sales. “We are in a unique position to bring technology developed for the OE side of the business to select aftermarket customers.” says Jeff Coggins.
The BRAKE Report spoke with Coggins, who is tasked with leading Sangsin’s sales and marketing in the North America. “We’re the biggest brake company no one has ever heard of,” he jokes.
Coggins paints a clear picture of growth for Sangsin. A new facility in Saltillo, Mexico, represents a large vote of confidence in the Americas, with the site serving OE customers in both North and South America.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and flow.
The BRAKE Report: What is top of mind right now for Sangsin in North America?
Jeff Coggins: In the short term, there’s a lot of uncertainty due to the tariffs out of China. Our manufacturing centers for the North American market are Korea and Mexico, so we’re not impacted in a negative way by the tariffs. So we’re seeing a lot more RFQs. People who were only interested in doing business in China are seeking other avenues now.
So certainly it’s an interesting time for us, due to the uncertainty that’s been caused by the potential tariffs. We’re scrambling to meet our customer demands and also, along with everybody else, we’re trying to see what the future holds. Everybody’s looking into their crystal ball and trying to see, down the road, what the tariffs mean for the global manufacturing of brake pads.
TBR: So the OE side in North America, is that a huge area of growth?
JC: We’ve supplied the global OE market since 1979. Now that we have the factory in Saltillo, Mexico, it opens up the North America market a little more.
We’ve been able to earn some business, and hopefully we’ll earn business with other North American OE and aftermarket customers going forward.
Having the manufacturing capacity on this continent was the first step in growing the business with the OEs in North and South America. We’re actually serving North and South American OEs out of that facility.
Growth in the Americas is a priority. In addition to the factory in Saltillo, we have a sales office in Atlanta, one in Los Angeles, and a brand-new sales office about to go online in Panama. They’ll be servicing the South American OE and Aftermarket out of that sales office.
TBR: Is the company more focused on growth in aftermarket or OE?
JC: It’s a dual path. I would say we don’t prefer one over the other. Globally, about 60% of our business is OE. I wouldn’t say we prioritize one over the other.
TBR: Tell me about Sangsin’s R&D.
Sangsin’s commitment to Research & Development has kept us on the leading edge of technology for both our OE and aftermarket customers. Our R&D lab in Daegu, South Korea has 17 dynamometers, including a chassis dyno. We re-invest 4% of our total revenue annually into R&D so that we can ensure our customers are receiving the best possible products using the latest technology.
As one example of the success of our R&D, we’ve developed and extensively tested multiple copper-free formulations and we have customers who are already taking advantage of our 100% copper-free program in the U.S.
TBR: Are there any other aspects of Sangsin you want to spotlight?
Sangsin will never cut corners or take shortcuts that compromise the quality of our products.
Sangsin factories are among the cleanest and most efficient n the industry. We strive to continuously conserve resources, reduce waste, and develop the most environmentally responsible manufacturing techniques.
Also, Sangsin makes a number of interesting products in addition to automotive brakes. This includes railway brakes and brake bands for washing machines. One of the more interesting and unusual products we make are brakes for wind turbines.