Local innovation adapted for motorhomes.
In 1997, brothers Dereck and Paul Legros’ auto suspension innovation was taking shape with its use on logging trailers they manufactured.
Today their company, Auto Flex Air Ride Suspension, has adapted and fine-tuned their new air ride system for light and medium duty trucks and vans which is being incorporated into Coachmen’s Class C, Concord motorhomes.
“We are the first air ride suspension manufacturer to hit the “OEM” original equipment manufacturer market of the RV industry with this,” Dereck Legros said.
The technology aims to improve braking, provide better gas mileage, maintain vehicle ride height, improve road handling, and provide a more comfortable ride.
“We developed our own suspension to fit onto travel trailers, fifth wheels and camper trailers. When I started to market it, most of the dealers were more interested in the tow-vehicle,” Legros said. “In 2007, we started to manufacture our own suspensions for pickup trucks and then graduated into the RV industry, ambulances and buses following the “QVM”, Qualified Vehicle Manufacturers program.”
To set us apart from competing suspension systems, Legros said they had to make sure that they didn’t void any warranties on new vehicles when doing the installations. This involved obtaining testing approval for the brake system from Link Engineering in Detroit to ensure that it was compatible with the rest of the vehicles, CMVSS & FMVSS 105.
“We worked closely with Ford Motor Company,” he said, adding that the Auto Flex technology has been tested on all North American auto manufacturers, even on the Class A motorhomes where chassis are built at Detroit Chassis in Detroit.
Legros says they were able to use some government grants and credits the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre as being the “driving force” in assisting us with marketing and grant writing since 2009. “The Innovation Centre got us an introduction and a conference call with the (auto) Trade Commissioner at the Canadian Consulate in Detroit and, he said “she provided us with an introduction with the right engineers at Ford Motor Company in Detroit. To ensure landing the Coachmen contract, Legros partnered with a “tier one” manufacturing company in Windsor to have their suspension robotically welded and put together. Shur-lok Products is our partner for large orders. “I would have loved to see it built here, but, logistically, we are too far away from the RV industry in (Indiana), where Coachmen’s manufacturing is done in Middlebury. “We are trying to keep local as much as possible, we source all steel, electrical, air, welding, and grinding materials and supplies from more than 12 local companies”.
Legros says they have been selling their suspension systems in Europe. Auto Flex holds 5 different patents in North America and has a patent pending on their product in Europe for their innovation suspension system.
“it’s like driving a hovercraft with better turning! I feel like I am on air and don’t feel any bumps at all”
— Rick, Thunder Bay, ON Canada
“I have driven over 500,000 kilometres on Autoflex’s Air Ride suspension over the past six years. The consistency that it provides makes it a must-have for the endless miles I drive on Northwestern Ontario roads. Having the Autoflex suspension provides an extra layer of comfort and safety whether I’m travelling rough gravel roads or towing a large load down the highway at night. No matter the situation, I know my truck will ride smoothly with the cab and headlights at their designed level, making my visibility always consistent and the best it can be. The suspension outlasts the life of my trucks, and Dereck and Autoflex are always great to work with. I’ve added their suspension to three of my trucks now, Dereck’s become my first call every time I pick up a new truck.
Wyatt Pawluk, President
Kabi Lake Forest Products”
“the traction side to side has substantially improved as previous systems did not have a swaybar for lean on the freeway. I even notice a difference without towing as braking has improved. I’ve had to stop short a couple of times and the results can potentially be life-saving. My ¾ tonne truck drives and handles like a ½ tonne on the highway”
— Gary from California