1950 SONAX begins as one of the pioneers in the development and manufacture of car care products
When Manfred Hoffmann senior and his father took on the entrepreneurial venture of manufacturing a polish for cars, success was not exactly predestined. A wealth of ideas, an instinct for the emerging market and outstanding products have all substantially contributed to success: Today the SONAX GmbH has about 350 employees in Germany.
A brand with history
The SONAX brand has a history reaching back to the beginning of the previous century. As early as 1903, the great grandfather of the present company owner, Manfred Hoffmann, began to extract“Neuburg“ siliceous earth in Neuburg, a very fine mineral used as a polish in many household cleaning products. After the second world war another branch, as manufacturer of care products, was added. So two brands were registered and legally protected: the brand „Sona“ was primarily intended for household use as a silver polish – the brand name of „SONAX“ for car care products was devised by the addition of an „X“ as synonym for „wax“. That is how the company started into the automobile care sector 65 years ago.
The beginnings were very simple: Four SONAX sales reps driving fully loaded VW beetles throughout Germany. Personal contact to the customer counted for everything, advertising at that time was unthinkable.
Jack Frost brought the breakthrough
Further car care products gradually followed. Amongst other things developed in the Neuburg laboratory was an effective de-icer , which became the first on the market in an aerosol can and, in the harsh winter of 1962, a huge commercial success.
In his book „For Love of the Automobile“, writer Wolfgang Sachs states: „In the 13 years between 1960 and 1973 the number of motor cars quadrupled, the amount of kilometres driven tripled and the route length of federal motorways doubled. (…) That was the beginning of the `motorised´ society“.It also changed the day to day life of the German people. Now, the car is ritually washed on a Saturday, seldom by a filling station attendant, mostly by the hand of the proud owner. The demand for car care products began to rise rapidly – bringing real success for the SONAX brand.
In the mid-1960’s the first fully automatic car wash installations were built, and SONAX accompanied this breakthrough from the very beginning, as quality manufacturer of cleaning and care products. Simultaneously, the programme for manual vehicle care was continuously developing.
When Manfred Hoffmann joined the company in 1984, the turnover had risen to the at that time considerable sum of 30 million DM. At first the majority of this was from own brands within the trade, the large oil companies and motor car manufacturers – But from the mid-1980’s we began a target orientated build up of the brand as a premium care programme for the car.
The product programme is constantly expanding, and the clear brand image, as well as advertising and sponsorship activities have helped to attain ever greater awareness. Successful partnerships in motor sports with Hans-Joachim Stuck, Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna or Heinz-Harald Frentzen have established the brand nationally and internationally.
The reunification of Germany was a further boost in the company’s development – from 1989 the sales turnover doubled within a short period of time. Today the brand is represented in more than 100 countries around the world. The export share has grown to over 43 percent. SONAX products are represented all over Europe and on all continents. The company has traditionally attained a high market share in the German speaking regions and in Scandinavia. But the brand also shines on east European markets. And cleaning and care products „made in Germany“ have also established themselves in Asiatic countries like South Korea, Japan and Thailand. SONAX products have also won numerous fans in South America, the USA and Canada.
Sponsoring activities in international motor sports have had a lasting impact on the brand image – especially in Formula 1. SONAX first displayed brilliance in the premium class of motor sports as partner of the team BAR Honda and McLaren Mercedes. Since 2012 the brand reigns on pole position as „Official Supplier“ to the team Infiniti Red Bull Racing. Numerous partnerships in DTM with e.g. Mercedes Benz, Opel, Audi and BMW provide some positive influence on a national level. With involvement in the inofficial Formula 1 series, GP2 and Formula 3, for many years SONAX has promoted young talent on international race tracks.
„made in Germany“ – geared for growth
The most recent chapter in the success story has been especially accompanied by extensive expansion activities. In 2008 the initial phase began with the new and large scale reception and administration building with ultra modern training facilities – which has become the flagship of our group of companies. With the construction of a new centre for application technology in 2012, the course has been set for intensified research and development activity. The new plant was put into operation in 2014. The opening ceremony was attended by company employees as well as numerous guests from commerce and politics such as Bavarian Premier, Horst Seehofer.
With that, SONAX sets itself to meet global challenges with a huge committment to location, this is stressed by owner and managing director, Manfred Hoffmann: „We feel very much at home here in Neuburg, the town is our home base, SONAX is a part of it“. For that reason, as part of our expansion strategy we are making a positive committment to sustainability: „For us it was a core concern that our economic advancement is underpinned with expansion that is compatible with our environment , with energy conservation and biodiversity. We link our entrepreneurial future with the ecological future of the region“, says Hoffmann.
For the perfect appearance of the automobile – and many other areas
No matter whether it’s a small car, medium class vehicle, or luxury motorhome – whether it’s in motor sports, the tuning scene or in the world of classic cars: When it comes to the perfect appearance of the automobile, SONAX is always there, for car fans and experts alike. To ensure the car care products are available nationwide, we work in close cooperation with trading partners from specialist retailers, the DIY sector, the oil industry and the motor car industry. In addition, since the end of the 1990’s the development and manufacture of the product programme for professional vehicle valeting and paintwork finishing have provided strong growth impulses.
But SONAX is also expanding into other sectors: During the last few years many new application areas were opened up in branches of trade and industry new to the company. They include, for example, the agricultural industry, the hardware trade, forest management, the construction industry, manufacturing technology or the sanitary industry.
Despite the dynamic career development, from silver polish to a comprehensive range of products and services for vehicle care, as well as for use in trade and industry, SONAX has remained a family business. Short decision making processes, motivated and dedicated employees, and the willingness and capacity for innovation are characteristic. We can be sure that the brand will still be finding satisfied customers in the future.