Bespoke Branding: 5 Questions with Brembo NA CEO Daniel Sandberg


Porsche with Brembo

Brembo is pulling out the stops on vehicle customization. Literally: Its high-fashion brake calipers come in more than 100 colors, providing one more way for customers to put that extra personal touch on their new vehicles. And if a flash of red, its signature color, on a car wheel doesn’t seem like a key branding element, ask Christian Louboutin how important red soles are in driving shoe sales.

The Italy-based Brembo long has been known for providing the bespoke bright red calipers that you see through the wheels of many luxury and performance cars, indicating that the vehicle relies on its technologically advanced, as well as stylish lightweight, brakes. Brembo makes this status symbol available in dozens of other colors as carmakers—and their discerning clientele—yearn for new ways to stand out.

Porsche Brembo

“Italians in general are artists, and those who work in the auto industry are artistic engineers,” Daniel Sandberg, President and CEO of Brembo’s North American business, told brandchannel. “They make things that are extremely functional and they look fantastic. And that’s the Italian DNA coming through.”

The colored brakes emblazoned with “Brembo” are sometimes priced separately, other times with a sport package or as standard equipment. “They usually take a premium,” Sandberg said, “and they deserve it.”

brandchannel talked with Sandberg about the evolution of the Brembo brand:

For our readers who aren’t perhaps aware of the colored caliper market, what is it and what role does Brembo play in it?

Dan Sandberg - president and CEO, Brembo NAIt’s very significant. At the end of the day if there’s anything that’s a trademark for our company, it’s probably our colored brakes. If you go to non-car people—some of whom certainly don’t know what a brake is or especially a caliper or rotor—if you start talking about Brembo brakes, and if they show a blank face, it’s very easy to say, ‘Have you seen the red wheels in cars?’

We were the first to paint a caliper and first to paint an aluminum caliper. The development and growth of the company over the last few years has been driven by the big-wheel craze… that  gave a great opportunity for something that was functional and looked great. That’s where Brembo really excels.

Are the red calipers mostly on luxury vehicles?

They were in the past, but it’s gone a lot further today. Mid-premium or performance vehicles have our brakes, including Buicks in certain cases and the Kia Stinger. And those are vehicles that are well within the range of mostly everybody to buy. But they’re performance vehicles, built with design in mind, and that’s an excellent place for us to play, when an OEM wants to really show off a vehicle. When I was in the wheel business we used to say the corners of the vehicle are 30 to 40 percent of the impression that you get of the vehicle when you first look at it. You want something in that corner that looks great, and colored calipers are fantastic for that.

Brembo colors at the New York Auto Show

Did your customers inspire the addition of other colors?

We’ve offered other colors for probably 10 years at least, but it’s grown with the ability of the OEMs to make almost-customized vehicles from online orders, and for customers to be able to order exactly what they want, and for it to be built “just in time” (s0) the companies don’t have to carry huge inventories. That gives us an ability to make to order and that makes it easier to customize.

When you start with red, and we have a very demanding customer base and designers get involved, they’re going to look at that vehicle to say, ‘What can we do to blend with the color of the car or offset and highlight it?’ So you’ll see multiple color choices. On the highest-end Ford GT you will see six colors; the Corvette, too. Some (models offer) up to 12 to 15 color combinations depending on how you want to customize the vehicle. That leads to a color palette of over 100 colors. You can get 12 shades of red alone.

Porsche Brembo

Are other colors getting more popular?

Red is still staple but others are catching up. Black is popular. Yellow is popular on Porsche 911. Porsche is leading the pack in this; a lime-green caliper typically is some kind of hybrid power train. It’s almost an identifier of a certain level of vehicle. Land Rover typically has Brembo brakes on a lot of cars, but it’s an option to get them colored.

Is red still the biggest identification with the Brembo brand?

Red is still a big identifier and the most popular color we have, but we want to provide the customer with the ability to customize their vehicles, and the customer comes first.

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