Adelaide manufacturer Axiom Precision Manufacturing has reinvented itself since the decline of Australia’s auto industry, launching its own brand of aftermarket product aimed at four-wheel drive enthusiasts. By Andrew Spence.

Axiom Precision Manufacturing began in 1979 as Diemould Tooling and was an OEM manufacturer for the automotive industry. However, as Australia’s automotive industry started to wind down towards closure about five years ago, Axiom was already on the path to a diversification that is now helping it thrive again.

“A lot of businesses probably threw their hands into the air and blamed others but Axiom actually said ‘It’s happening so what are we going to do about it?’” says Business Development Manager Peter Howard. “They identified where they thought the market was going and it looks they made a pretty good call.”

That direction has been spearheaded by defence, aerospace and medical devices, with Axiom completing work for numerous defence primes including ASC, Raytheon Australia and BAE. The workforce has grown to about 60 at its Wingfield base, and Howard expects this number to swell further in the next couple of years.

“Everything that finished when Ford, Toyota and Holden closed, we’ve been able to replace,” Howard adds. “Our turnover has grown slightly but it’s more the fact that we’ve been able to replace the millions of dollars of work that was lost.”

A number of the staff at Axiom are avid off-roaders and that has helped inspire the next phase of diversification and a return to the auto industry, albeit in the aftermarket category. The company has launched its AX4 brand with a range of products including winches, rooftop tents, recovery kits, sand tracks and tailgate covers for transporting bicycles.

Howard says the interest in off-road driving among Axiom staff, coupled with the company’s automotive experience and design skills, leave it well placed to enter the specialised area.

“We’ve all got slightly different interests: some are your true off-road four-wheel drivers who don’t want to see a power point for weeks on end so they’ll go as remote as possible,” he said. “Others want to ride their motorbikes and push bikes off-road and their four-wheel-drive enables them to get to places where that can be done. And then there are those who just want to do general travelling across Australia.

Axiom is working with retailers and distributors to carry its AX4 range.

“Our intention is to do our own products or co-branded products predominantly,” says Howard. “We’re not really looking to become another retail store of four-wheel-drive products, we really want to bring something new to the market and leveraging our experience and expertise in the engineering field is something that is a good point of difference for us. We’re also looking at a drop-off and pick-up service where people can drop off their new or used four-wheel-drive and we will fit it out to suit the specifications they require.”

Axiom has also partnered with another South Australian company, Lightforce, to produce a replacement radiator grille with an integrated pair of Lightforce’s high-performance Venom LED driving lights. The grille is designed to be rigid and durable to eliminate the need for any extra mounting bars or rails, and supports each light at three points to provide precise alignment adjustment.

The AX4 product has been designed to fit a Ford Ranger PX2 and PX3 models, with similar products to suit Toyota HiLux and Holden Colorado to be released in 2019. In 2017, more than 42,000 new Ford Rangers were sold in Australia, making it the second most sold vehicle behind the Toyota HiLux with 47,000 sales. The Australian-designed Ranger is now in production in Michigan ahead of its US release in early 2019.

The X Grille eliminates the need for bull bars, nudge bars or bulky mountings to add driving lights.  It is available for pre-order with the first deliveries expected in early 2019. The product was soft-launched at the Adelaide 4WD and Adventure show in South Australia in late October and is also on display at the Lightforce stand at SEMA in Las Vegas in early November – one of the world’s biggest auto specialty product showcases. Lightforce is already well established in North America and it is hoped its existing relationships will help drive X-Grille sales in the US.

“The key things with the partnership between Axiom and Lightforce is we are both well-established South Australian businesses and we have worked together previously on some pretty good projects but never in a co-branded product,” says Howard. “Lightforce’s international market is certainly an advantage but Axiom is known internationally as well. We see it as a big opportunity for us and it’s definitely an area we are looking to expand our business.”