Co-branding can be tricky in the auto business. Carmakers don’t have a problem with touting Bose stereo systems and Apple CarPlay in part because such components aren’t their core competencies. But brakes? Those hit closer to home, especially in luxury and performance cars where high standards for braking and handling are integral to the overall brand experience provided by the vehicle.
But that’s where Brembo comes in. In the midst of a nearly six-fold increase in its business on the continent over the past five years, the nearly $2 billion, Italy-based brake maker is showing its wares on the floor of the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit for the first time ever, right across from the BMW exhibit.
“We have had a lot of consumers asking questions, so we said, maybe this year we’ll show our whole line and technologies and give our customers and media a chance to see all of the calipers and rotors and braking systems that we do,” Dan Sandberg, CEO of Brembo North America, told brandchannel.
“We want to continue to make Brembo a household name,” added Sandberg. “Most car people know what Brembo is, and all the racing people do. But our goal is to get everyone familiar with the Brembo name.” It certainly helps that in the past year alone, Brembo has introduced brake systems on the Cadillac ATS-V, Cadillac CTS-V, Dodge Hellcat, Chevrolet Camaro Z28 and other popular vehicles. Brembo brakes also are found on all M-Series BMWs, R-Series Audis, Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces and Bentleys.
More and more carmakers are putting brake calipers with the Brembo logo prominently in the middle of their very expensive wheels, in large part because Brembo’s racing pedigree and credentials enhance the vehicle’s overall proposition. Thus the originator of the colored brake caliper has been able to slap its identifying logo on new Corvettes, Ferraris and more.
It isn’t necessarily an easy decision for luxury car brands that, of course, are concerned about how components reflect on the vehicle marque itself.
“Obviously we’d love to have ‘Brembo’ on every caliper out there, because we think the brand is very strong and says luxury and performance and great products,” says Sandberg. “But at the end of the day, OEM marketers and product guys are going to determine what helps them sell their cars from an image and marketing standpoint.”
Thus, if a carmaker has a strong performance brand such as Porsche, BMW or Cadillac’s performance V Series, “they may want to leave that logo in place” and not interfere with a Brembo-labeled brake caliper, Sandberg said. “But other customers may want to show that they’re bringing out better products or content now, so they’ll want a Brembo logo on there to highlight the fact that he’s adding better content from a component standpoint.”
Or a brand will do both. All of the calipers on Land Rover’s Range Rover models, for example, are made by Brembo, but only an upgraded version uses the Brembo-branded red caliper.
“It’s one of the most exciting times in the industry,” Sandberg concluded, because despite a push toward lower emissions and self-driving, auto companies also are “focusing more now on product excitement rather than on just making the product inexpensive.”