INTERVIEW: Klaus Wohlfarth, Managing Director @ KW automotive

KW automotive is proud to be regarded as one of the world’s best suspension manufacturers, boasting a huge catalogue of upgrades, revolutionary coilover technologies and massive success in various motorsports. But none of this would have been possible without the passion and determination of one man – Klaus Wohlfarth – who established the brand back in 1995 and continues to lead KW as the Managing Director in 2014.

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It’s been a busy and exciting year for Klaus and the KW team with the repositioning of US subsidiary ST suspensions, a high-quality, medium priced suspension upgrade produced at KW automotive in Fichtenberg, Germany. ST suspensions has opened up a whole new sector for KW automotive, further increasing the product range to suit just about all driving needs and budget requirements. We sat down with Klaus to find out the reasons behind this, and where the ST suspensions brand is heading in the not too distant future.

With the extensive range of KW Coilovers why did you introduce another brand to the line-up with ST suspensions?

Klaus Wohlfarth: ST suspensions have actually been part of the KW automotive group since 2005. But until early 2014 ST suspensions had only been available in the USA. In America the history of ST goes back to the early eighties, with a rich heritage in producing sport suspensions, stabilizers and sport springs for US market vehicles. KW Automotive acquired the brand in 2005 and we have developed a range of coilovers for ST suspensions to aid the growth of the brand in the European and Japanese car segments.

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Did you plan to establish the brand ST suspensions worldwide, just like KW?

Klaus Wohlfarth: That was one of the main objectives of integrating KW and ST. While KW are regarded as one of the market leader of individual suspension solutions, particularly in terms of coilovers, ST suspensions can occupy the mid-price segment and allow these customers access to KW technology. We have merged our Weitec product ranges into the ST suspension range and it allows ST to provide sport suspensions, lowering springs, spacers and spring distance kits for many applications. ST suspensions allows worldwide customers to purchase high quality suspensions made ​​in Germany at an affordable price level. KW’s involvement with the ST brand ensures all ST products meet all the high OEM requirements of the German automotive industry, the correct licensing and certification authorities as well as our own, strict KW-quality demand. Just like every KW coilover suspension kit, also the ST coilovers are manufactured by hand and each kit comes ready to fit, checked and tested extensively during every stage of the production process.

Does ST compete with KW?

Klaus Wohlfarth: Not at all. We see ST as an ideal complement to our high-quality coilovers, which are used worldwide by customers with the highest demands. ST and KW occupy different price brackets, with different performance results. The KW brand will always provide the highest quality coilover on the market. KW coilovers represent the latest innovative technology, with the goal to serve the different needs of our customers exactly. KW aim to give the best quality and service around these sophisticated suspension solutions. With ST suspensions we want to use our extensive expertise to  bolster the overall product range in order to offer applications and technical solutions that we no longer offer under the KW name. These include classic lowering springs, sport dampers and suspension kits. ST also bring new products to the range like anti-sway bars, wheel spacers and lift kits. ST suspensions does not compete with KW, ST allows us to further focus and refine the KW range.

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What is the difference between ST suspensions and KW, particularly the coilovers?

Klaus Wohlfarth: Although the appearance is similar, the ST and KW product lines are very different. The most obvious to see is the material that is used for the strut housings. KW is made ​​entirely of stainless steel or aluminum, whereas ST uses galvanized steel for the coilover housings which is gold in colour. ST coilovers come either with fixed damping or rebound adjustment. KW has a full range of adjustment options which can be tailored to the customer.

KW offer a coilover for every purpose. KW dampers are able to be adjusted separately in rebound and compression damping, or even electronically adjustable coilovers with adaptive dampers which can be adjusted via smart phone! KW’s Street Comfort coilover kit cater for customers that regard their standard suspension as too uncomfortable and wish to improve the ride. Alongside these road applications, KW offer a variety of Clubsport coilovers with motor sport components specifically for track days as well as the famous KW Competition motor sport suspension systems. No other brand has such a diverse range! ST offer three coilover suspension variants. We make it simple to choose the right system, even if you have never had coilovers before. ST coilovers are unique in their price bracket and the top of the range ST XTA coilovers allow for rebound adjustment and camber adjustment with aluminum unibal top mounts.

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Are the ST suspension kits manufactured in the USA?

Klaus Wohlfarth: No, in 2005 KW moved manufacture of the ST coilovers to Germany, side by side with our KW coilovers. This will also continue in the future. Our ST wheel spacers are also made in Germany. This was made possible in early 2013 when KW Automotive acquired Power Tech, famous for its wheel spacers kits which we now sell via the ST suspensions brand.

So the only American thing left is the name for ST suspensions?

Klaus Wohlfarth: Not quite, ST sway bars are still manufactured in the U.S alongside the production of our Belltech Sport Truck parts. Belltech components cater for the popular muscle car and sport truck markets in the us and are also made to the exacting, high KW standards.

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Lately, the name Ken Block has been mentioned in combination with ST suspensions. Did you plan to also equip race cars with ST suspensions components?

Klaus Wohlfarth: No. In motor sport, our KW Competition suspension program is still the ultimate. Our race program has been very successful for many years in worldwide competitions. For example, all factory BMW Z4 GT3 racing cars are now equipped with KW Competition suspensions. We have been working together with Ken Block in the U.S. for a while now, and we have several road going projects planned for later in the year. These will use ST suspensions components to showcase the diversity of the range. Ken is our international brand ambassador for ST and we are very excited to be working together with him this year.

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What can we expect from ST suspensions in future?

Klaus Wohlfarth: Right now we are only at the beginning of our activities with ST. We are working hard to successfully establish ST as a global brand. We have introduced a clear and transparent pricing system especially for the trade and workshops. Instead of having to find the relevant price for the respective car model in extensive application lists, all the recommended retail prices fit on just one page. We want to make it easy for people to enjoy ST suspensions and the brand image is very strong!

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