30 years of KW – from a one-man business to a global entrepreneurial group

Seeing every problem as a challenge and meeting it head-on is what drives Klaus Wohlfarth, founder of KW automotive, and all the employees at KW on a daily basis.

25 years of KW
Klaus Wohlfarth founded KW Tuning in Murrhardt back in 1992

At the beginning of May 2022, it was exactly thirty years ago that Klaus Wohlfarth founded the retail business “KW Tuning” in his Swabian hometown Murrhardt.

25 years of KW

In a certain sense, the year 1995 set the foundation for KW’s current success. Together with his brother Jürgen, Klaus Wohlfarth had the idea of developing a suspension system that would meet almost all lowering requirements. This was the birth of the KW coilover suspension.

Archive image from the Essen Motor Show of 1996

The coilover suspension was for the first time presented to the public of the 1995 Essen Motor Show. The coilover suspension gained a lot of interest thanks to its parts certificate. In addition to individual car enthusiasts, specialist dealers, wholesalers and importers also showed interest to include KW coilovers in their product range.

At that time, KW’s product range consisted of nine suspension applications for four different vehicles. Today, as an aftermarket suspension manufacturer, we have developed almost 30,000 applications for more than 2,345 vehicles – with parts certificates.

In 1992 Klaus Wohlfarth founded KW Tuning and sold a range of sporty car accessories

Three decades later, the KW automotive Group has grown into a global company with 13 locations and 1200 employees. The innovative products are appreciated worldwide by car manufacturers, motorsport teams and automotive enthusiasts.

You can also discover an overview of the first 25 years of our company’s history on the KW automotive blog. With this blog post, however, we would like to highlight a few milestones of our history.

25 years of KW
Together with his brother Jürgen Wohlfarth and some friends, Klaus was active in the Divinol Cup

With his roots in racing and always focused on the individual benefits for the customer, Klaus Wohlfarth and his companions continued to optimize and improve the coilover suspension product.

Over the past 30 years, the suspension manufacturer, which became KW automotive GmbH in 1998, has developed numerous small and large innovations in the field of individual suspension solutions.

Among the well-known KW developments are height-adjustable rear axle suspension mounts, valve technologies with individually adjustable damping characteristics, the production of stainless steel struts, hydraulic lift systems, the use of composite materials for suspension mounts, adaptive coilover suspensions, smartphone apps for suspension control and many more. They have allowed KW to become the market leader for custom suspension systems in our segment.

Over the years, in the field of adjustable dampers alone, at KW automotive we have developed 16 valve technologies and since 2017 we have revolutionised the world of customer sports with our KW Solid Piston dampers. Meanwhile, we are also using this displacement piston technology for various suspension applications for road vehicles.

The KW V5 coilover suspension – currently available for the Corvette C8, Lamborghini Huracán – is also manufactured with Soild Piston dampers

With the so-called KW Solid Piston Technology, the working piston is not flooded by the damper fluid as in conventional damping systems. The piston pushes the oil column in the vibration damper directly into the valve carrier, which is separated from the working chamber; this allows to generate much higher damping forces.

After Zakspeed’s victory in 2002 and Manthey Porsche’s victories in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2018, 2021 and ROWE RACING’s victory in 2020 – we as a suspension supplier have won the Nürburgring 24-hour race already nine times

If you want to know more about our KW V6 Racing (formerly KW Competition 5A) racing dampers, which are homologated for example for the BMW M4 GT3 and the Porsche 911 GT3 R, you can also visit our blog.

KW automotive currently works for brands like Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes, Porsche and other car manufacturers, and often for both motorsport and daily road cars.

In recent years, we have been involved in various production vehicles such as the BMW M4 GTS, Ford Fiesta ST Edition, Mercedes-Benz G500 4×4², Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro, Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet and many more. It all started 16 years ago with the Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG Black Series.

The Audi Sport Performance Parts programme for the TT RS (TT FV/8S) and the R8, which is exclusively available as an optional extra from Audi, also comes to some extent from Fichtenberg’s hand, with coil springs that can be manually adjusted in terms of their damping characteristics.

At KW automotive, we not only manufacture suspension systems, but also support the automotive industry, small series manufacturers and tuners in the design and development of suspension. And we go even further than some others in our segment.

Old R&D video about KW DDC ECU with English Subtitles

We are the only shock absorber manufacturer in our aftermarket segment to develop and produce adaptive suspension, including own control units, sensors and software control algorithms for autonomous, situation-dependent damper adjustment in real time driving conditions.

We have also long been active in the field of “artificial intelligence” for chassis control systems and have been working closely with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) in this area for several years. Together with the Institute for Digitalisation and Electric Drives (IDA) of the University of Heilbronn (HHN) on the Künzelsau campus, we are actively working on new technologies for the automotive and the aftermarket industry.

Production at KW automotive in Fichtenberg is as unique as KW technology itself

What is special about it is that all the process stages from the production of struts and housings to the assembly of dampers, coating of springs and the final suspension assembly are designed so flexible that we produce each suspension individually to order in Fichtenberg.

In other words. Someone, somewhere in the world, orders a suspension from their KW dealer or directly from us and we start producing it. And it doesn’t make a difference if it’s an order for ST coil springs, KW V3 coil springs or coil springs from our brand ap Sportfahrwerke.

We are so flexible with all our structures that we can effectively manufacture suspension in a batch size of one. No matter whether it is original equipment or accessory suspension for our industrial customers or tuning companies such as Abt Sportsline, AC Schnitzer, Brabus, Novitec and many, many others.

We have established a close partnership with all the players in our sector and work closely with Manthey, for both motor sports and public road cars.

We have a production range of almost 95 percent and, depending on the ordered asuspension and the used KW automotive damping technology, over 85 production steps are required to produce a suspension!

In this multi-level shuttle warehouse, the wagons that have been pre-loaded for an order are temporarily stored by axle

This “build-to-order” principle clearly sets us apart from all other suspension manufacturers and enables us to produce around 400 individual suspensions every day, of which about 350 are going to complete unique vehicles.

The ST XTA plus 3 coilover suspension can be extensively customised thanks to the “Make it Yours” programme

Speaking of individuality: With our ST Suspension brand, the ST coil springs and ST coil suspensions can be ordered with different colours and lettering through the so-called “Make it Yours” programme. For certain vehicles and ST coilovers there are also optional spring packages with different spring rates.

KW V5 Clubsport coilover suspension with Solid Piston damper technology

Despite all the high-tech and the fact that we are always pushing the boundaries of the impossible with our developments, one thing should never be forgotten at KW automotive: We’re all petrolheads!

There is a story about us that not only touches the hearts of “KW Hill Climb fans“. But it describes, like almost no other story in the last 30 years, what makes us so special under the umbrella of the KW automotive Group.

It was a privilege to restore Georg Plasa’s racing car ten years after he passed away

Klaus Wohlfarth quietly protected a very special BMW and “hid” it in the “Holy KW Halls” until we brought it back into the light of day in 2018… You can read more about this story on the KW automotive blog.

Reiger Suspensions, BBS alloy wheels and AL-KO

Anyone familiar with our detailed review of our first 25 years knows that the KW automotive Group umbrella includes many well-known brands, such as the suspension manufacturer Belltech, which specializes in American pick-ups and off-road vehicles, the suspension brand ST suspensions, Weitec and also Power Tech wheel spacers.

In 2021 Reiger Suspension, BBS and AL-KO Damping Unit joined the KW automotive Group

In 2021, something very big happened. As of January 1st, 2021, Reiger Suspension became a brand of the KW automotive Group, complementing our range of individual suspension solutions.

In rally raids like the Dakar Rally, Reiger customers have been dominating for years

Reiger Suspensions plays Champions League in countless different motorsport classes far from paved roads and racetracks. Whether in the World Rally Cross World Championship (WRC), in the Dakar Rally, in motorcross and in many other races, vehicles with Reiger suspension components dominate. In motorcross alone, Reiger has been World Champion 24 times in a row since 1995, with the exception of two years!

Since 2021, BBS has also become a member of the KW automotive Group. The Black Forest region will also continue to produce wheels in the future

“Form follows function” has been the very own identity of the light alloy wheel manufacturer BBS for over 50 years.

The high-quality BBS wheels stand for quality, meet the highest requirements and under the umbrella of the KW automotive Group, the innovative brand returns to its roots: the development and production of wheels for car enthusiasts.

In the summer of 2021, the next big bang occurred. AL-KO Damping Technology became a division of the KW automotive Group. As a result, we grew by two more locations.

AL-KO has decades of expertise in industrial manufacturing. In the future, we will use this know-how to open up new market segments with new suspension components and products and at the same time offer AL-KO’s existing customers innovative products using KW Engineering.

The heart of the KW automotive Group is the headquarters in Fichtenberg (Germany)

In addition, our SimRacing business is also growing strongly and with our brands Ascher Racing, TrackTime and RaceRoom we are also very active in the fast-growing e-sports sector – So here’s to the next 30 years…

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