While the domestic auto market suffered greatly last year, Waukesha-based Husco International Inc., a manufacturer and designer of hydraulic and electro-hydraulic controls for automotive and off-highway vehicles, saw a growing demand for its automotive-related products because of increased demand for improved fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
The company’s components and systems are used by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) including the Big Three American auto makers, several European auto makers, and large manufacturers in the construction and agricultural machinery markets.
“Our automotive products are focused on emissions and fuel efficiency,” said Austin Ramirez, executive vice president with Husco International and CEO of its divisions Husco Automotive and INCOVA Technologies. “Our biggest (segment) is variable valve time or cam phasing that change with driving conditions, so you can get good torque or good fuel efficiency in a hurry.”
Several cars made by the Big Three American car companies use Husco’s variable cam phasing product, which change the timing of intake and output valves by varying the angle of the cam shaft relative to the crank shaft. Variable cam phasing optimizes performance based on different driving conditions, Ramirez said.
Husco International also makes several cylinder deactivation products, which shut down several valves of eight-cylinder engines while they are driving at stable highway speeds, and therefore saves greatly on fuel economy.
The company also makes components used in variable oil pumps that are used only when needed, Ramirez said, and it is now developing controls for dual clutch systems that are being developed for the automotive market.
About 20 percent of Husco International’s sales are to the automotive market. The rest are in off-highway products.
“For the off-highway market, we design and manufacture control valves that direct hydraulic pressure to control work functions in any piece of equipment,” Ramirez said.
In mid-2008, Husco International formed INCOVA Technologies, which develops advanced electrohydraulic controls for excavation and construction equipment – designed to reduce fuel consumption while maintaining optimal performance.
“We can save 20 to 30 percent of the fuel used,” Ramirez said.
Husco International operates six different facilities – three in the United States, one in the United Kingdom, one in India, and a sixth in China. It employs about 300 in its corporate headquarters, engineering, research and development and manufacturing facility in Waukesha. It also has another 100 workers in manufacturing and design in Whitewater.
The company also operates a manufacturing facility in Iowa.
Despite the well-publicized problems the automotive industry had in 2009, Husco’s sales to its automotive customers grew, Ramirez said.
“We are concentrated in the North American auto makers, but because of our fuel efficiency technologies, we still grew,” he said. “Our technologies are growing in the engines they are making.”
Because of the continued downturn in residential and commercial construction, its off-highway sales fell significantly.
“It was a painful year with some difficult separations. Some downsizing was necessary given what was going on in the market,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez said Husco International’s sales were down significantly in 2009, but declined to be more specific.
The company expects to see some rebounding this year in both its automotive and off-road markets.
“Automotive is continuing to accelerate and is becoming a more important part of our business portfolio,” Ramirez said. “In the off-highway (segment) we will see some recovery from bringing up production to match sales. That will give us an increase but not to the 2005 to 2007 levels.”
Because of the resurgence in the economies of India and China, countries where Husco International has manufacturing and design operations, the company expects to see significant growth.
“The Asian markets like China and India are booming or starting to boom,” Ramirez said.