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Supashock takes on 4x4 big guns

Supa man: Supashock managing director Oscar Fiorinotto in front of some of his company's products at a recent event in South Australia.

Motorsport success is taking Supashock into new off-road terrain

25 Nov 2015

ADELAIDE damper-maker Supashock is fighting back in the battle to keep Australia’s automotive manufacturing industry alive in the beleaguered state but it remains frozen out of government assistance schemes.

South Australian federal independent senator Nick Xenophon has backed the motorsport manufacturer in its bid to gather co-investment from the Automotive Transformation Scheme, which he said has more than $700 million in funds that remain unused.

“We need that money now, urgently, otherwise we are facing a tsunami of job losses in this country – 200,000 jobs will be lost unless we get behind companies like Supashock,” he said.

Senator Xenophon said it would be a heart-breaking outcome if the company was tempted to move offshore because it was unable to gather state or federal support for its growing business.

“Oscar (Supashock managing director Oscar Fiorinotto) has a dozen employees now, there’s no reason why he couldn’t have 120 in 12 months and 1200 in a few years time.

“It would break my heart if he got a knock on the door from the Germans or the Chinese to take them away because they didn’t get the support they need. We need the co-investment,” he said.

The company is also in discussions with the South Australian government about possible expansion plans that could include a move to the region surrounding GM Holden’s current factory at Elizabeth, which would support Supashock’s plans to expand its production.

“We’re growing and employing all the time,” said managing director Oscar Fiorinotto. “In order for us to grow quickly in the diversification process, which is what we’re going though now, will enable us to build a proper plant. We want to be able to manufacture 5000-10,000 units a year.

“With some support during this it will give us the heads-up to be able to purchase the required infrastructure. At the moment we are a small manufacturer capable of producing around 500 units and we’re increasing that to 2000 units, that’s our goal, but we want to be up around 5000 to 10,000,” he said.

South Australian department of state development’s principal industry consultant for the Automotive Transformation Taskforce Mal Lowen said the talks with Supashock and the state government were ongoing.

“We’re looking at the state government’s automotive supplier diversification program, we’re talking to Oscar now about how he can fit into our program, because it is primarily aimed at OEMs and their supply chains,” he said.

“Obviously with the minister here today he’s seen the value of the company so that’s a discussion for the New Year to see where we can take it.” Supashock does not qualify for investment under current rules as it was not a supplier to the three car-makers which have announced a halt to local manufacturing, but South Australia’s minister for manufacturing, innovation and automotive transformation Kyam Maher paid tribute to the Supashock initiative and pledged the state government’s support.

“The aftermarket industry is massive, a NSW report suggests up to $11 billion a year,” he said. “I pay tribute to Oscar for having a different idea and looking at a new future for your company.

“We will stand by you as a state government, we will keep, with Nick, the pressure on the federal government to release the ATS funds. $795 million still in that scheme that should be spent on diversifying out of producing cars,” he said.

The damper manufacturer is riding a wave of success in motorsport with its involvement in the Prodrive racing team. The team’s CEO Tim Edwards said the partnership was yielding success on the racetrack, including two Bathurst endurance race wins and a championship lead.

“We first got involved with Oscar a couple of years ago and the appeal of working with a local manufacturer was really key,” he said. “His competitors are largely based overseas and as a result difficult to work with, but with Oscar we have someone only a state away and he’s at all the races.

“Last year we were in a transition phase to the Supashock product, we had the dampers on Chaz’s car. It was so successful on his car that we changed over to his product for both cars this year and we’re first and second in the championship. With a bit of luck and a tail wind we’ll get the championship in the next few weeks,” he said.

The damper-maker is looking to translate that into road-going success with SUVs and 4WDs, expanding its product range to include components for the fast-growing segments and taking on market leader ARB.

Mr Fiorinotto undertook the Supashock venture in 2006 to develop racing dampers in motorsport after a long career as a motorsport engineer.

“The technology in these dampers is now carried over into the 4x4 product. It has been a challenging learning curve. The motorsport lessons have been carried over into dampers that can be used in the wider community,” he said.

Mr Fiorinotto said his company has achieved a damper with exceptional ride, handling and change of direction and believes it will be successful when it hits the market early next year.

“Our system that you see here is unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else. Our system enables the car to be a lot softer in terms of ride suppleness, the system has been developed with the technology not seen before. Our front spring system is progressive and a big diameter robust system but with bump control and ride quality.”

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