Spanish manufacturer Ausa gives IRN an exclusive look at its new T 235 telehandler at its Manresa facility near Barcelona. Murray Pollok reports.
Ausa's move into the compact telehandler market has reached a conclusion - for the time being - with the launch of the new T 235 model, a 2.3 t/5.0m class machine that fits in the middle of its range of seven compact and super-compact machines.
The T 235, the latest launch since the first machine was introduced in 2008, will become one of the key models for Ausa as it continues its export growth activities, and is a key product for the rental sector.
Josep Soler, commercial director of Ausa's industrial division, tells IRN that the T 235 is an evolution of the T 204, "which has been a big success. It has the same lateral boom design, which makes it very narrow - 1.7 m wide - and it's very compact, and with great operator visibility."
Maximum lifting height is 5 m and maximum load is 2.3 t, or 1.8 t at maximum lifting height. Like the other Ausa handlers it has a hydrostatic drive, although the 235 differs from the 204 in having an automatic transmission rather than the two-speed drive on the 204.
Ausa says a key benefit of its handlers is their relatively low weight. On the T 235, for example, unladen weight is 4.7 t, which the manufacturer says is considerably lighter than competitor machines on the market. Not many companies are making machines of this size, but Manitou and JCB are both have models in this class size.
For Mr Soler, this low weight has several benefits, including lower fuel consumption and less wear on components such as tyres and transmission. But an equally important factor is the fact that Ausa can use a 36.5 kW Kubota engine, below the 37 kW cut-off for Stage IIIB engines.
"The competition will have to downsize their engines [to below the 37 kW size], or use Stage IIIB engines which are larger", he says. Stage IIIB diesels are also considerably more expensive, of course.
Any suggestion that Ausa's machines are underpowered is swiftly challenged. Raphael Guevara, Ausa's director for industrial products and purchasing, says that Ausa "in the past had some criticism about the light weight, but they are actually designed for heavy applications." The Dana axle, for example, could operate well with a larger 3 t handler, says Ausa.
Mr Guevara says the company "is always looking at where we can lose weight." The engine is located behind the cab, for example, contributing as a counterweight and ensuring a well-balanced machine.
That low weight also relates to the machine's compact dimensions - overall length (to the end of the boom) is 4.86 m, stowed height is 1.96 m and width is 1.7 m. "It has the same turning radius as the T 204, which is 3 m. That is outstanding. Normally for this size of machine it would be 3.5 m or so", says Mr Soler.
Ausa envisages the machine not just operating as a standard compact telehandler, carrying out pick and carry operations, but the company also sees applications as a replacement for skid steer loaders and compact, articulated wheeled loaders.
With the telehandler range now complete - from the smallest T 133H (which has a single section boom) to the 3 t class T 307 - Ausa will now focus on increasing sales in Europe and, where possible, in export markets.
Sales levels for the telehandlers are still modest, at around 200 machines and €5 million in value last year, but the company hopes to increase that to 1000 units and revenues of €20 million by 2015.
The sub-2.5 t handler market is a niche one - that's why Ausa targeted it in the first place - with global sales of perhaps between 3000 and 5000 units a year. It is becoming a more important sector, however, says Josep Soler; "It seems that the market for telehandlers is developing more at the lower end than the high end. It's where we see growth in the telehandler market."
Ausa's investment in telehandlers has been just one facet of the company's survival through Spain's disastrous (and ongoing) recession. Over the past five years it has launched on average five new products a year, a function of the typically 3% to 4.5% of turnover that it invests each year in research and development, investment levels that have been sustained through the downturn.
That investment, and its expertise in procurement - 75% of components are sourced outside of Spain - means that it is able to bring new products to market very quickly. "When we see an opportunity we are able to produce a new product in one and a half years - design, industrialisation, testing - all in one and a half years", says Mr Guevara, "That is a very good time to market."
Alongside the development of the telehandlers and further gap filling in its rough terrain forklift and dumper ranges - dumpers are still the core of the business, representing €22 million in sales and 40% of the total last year - there has been further development of its ‘Urban' multitask, sweeping and cleaning machine ranges.
Europe still represents 60 to 65% of sales, but exports are becoming more important, with new subsidiaries opened in Brazil and Mexico last year as well as the Middle East. The US is also a big potential market, of course, with Ausa's larger sized rough terrain forklifts having a particular relevance, but efforts will be on making the new subsidiaries work. A key initiative this year, for instance, is a dumper assembly plant in Brazil - see box story.
One of the interesting things about Ausa is a clear influence from the automotive sector, from the emphasis on design flair - the company employed an Italian car designer when it was looking at its new range of RT forklifts and telehandlers - to the focus on investment in research and development.
The influence can be explained by looking at Ausa's senior managers, with both general manager Joan Aixendri and group commercial director Paco Perez Salinas having worked for long periods in the automotive industry before joining Ausa.
For Mr Aixendri, the look of a machine is important; "We push the designers to focus on the emotional connection with the machines...we think that with Ausa products in general you feel something - a good sensation. Maybe you can't express it in words, but you feel it."
There is also the same fierce commercial focus, with Ausa hoping for growth of around 20% to €75 million this year. Much of that will be in its two biggest markets, France and the UK. "I think we will achieve the budget", said Mr Aixendri, "The Urban range [sweepers and multiservice machines sold to municipalities] will increase by 100%."
He says Ausa benefits from the stability that it's long time private owners bring - two of the three founding families still own the business - and the flexibility and speed of response that its small size brings.
The company is alive to the potential for alliances and joint ventures. It already sells Turkish-made Cukurowa backhoes in Spain and in some developing markets and also has a sales arrangement for mini excavators with China's Sunward. A link with Mustang for skid steer loaders has ended since Mustang's acquisition by Manitou and Mr Aixendri says there is no rush to find a new skid steer partner.
Brazil and Mexico are important initiatives and Ausa is also looking at opportunities in India, although local dumper suppliers are significantly lower priced and it would not be a straightforward market to enter with its current machines, he says.
In terms of products, with so many new machines launched in the past five years, and with a lot of engineering effort currently targeted at the 11 Ausa machines requiring Stage IIIB engines, the company's short term focus is on adding options and attachments to the existing ranges rather than making major new product introductions.
Ausa's designers deserve a break, even if it doesn't feel like it to them.
T 235 Specification
Weight 4700 kg
Engine 36.5 kW Kubota V-2403
Max load 2300 kg
Max lifting ht 5000 mm
Max reach 2730 mm (800 kg capacity)
Transmission hydrostatic, automatic regulation
Speed 24 km/hr
Dimensions 4.86 m (L) x 1.96 m (H) x 1.7 m (W)
Ausa hopes to establish an assembly facility in Brazil before the end of the year to produce site dumpers for the Brazilian and South American markets.
The location of the facility has yet to be finalised, but will not be in Sao Paolo or Rio de Janeiro. The facility will start by producing the company's D150 RM rigid dumper, a 1.5 t capacity machine that is well suited to the South American market.
Joan Aixendri, Ausa's general manager, told IRN that the company would invest between €3.5 and €4.0 million in its Brazilian operation this year.
He said that import duties on imported products and the subsidised finance for locally produced machines meant that local assembly of dumpers was essential.
"The target is not to produce in Brazil, it is to sell in Brazil", said Mr Aixendri.
The Brazilian facility will use a mix of imported and locally sources components, with transmission and engines imported, for example.