Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last five years, you’ll have noticed a huge rise in popularity of ‘air-ride’ suspension. Usually the mainstay of luxury models like BMW’s 7 Series or off-road variants like the BMW X5, this technology has been welcomed by the aftermarket with open arms and can be seen in use on a variety of vehicles. Where manufacturers might see air suspension as a solution for extra comfort, Air Lift Performance has a different vision. As the world’s largest producer of aftermarket air suspension, Air Lift Performance’s range carries the slogan: ‘Drive it, Show it, Track it’. Eager to find out more we headed to Air Lift Performance HQ in Lansing, Michigan.
Approaching Air Lift Performance’s purpose-built headquarters for the first time, you cannot help but be taken back by the scale of the operation, and it’s still expanding. During our visit we learned that building works were in full swing, roughly doubling the already expansive premises. Air Lift Performance’s Corey Rosser was on hand to show us what made the company tick and guide us through the series of huge buildings. Corey may already be a familiar face to some, as he regularly attends UK shows and events. “Everything is taken care of in-house.
From design to development and manufacture,” Corey explains. Winding through the multi-level office section of the building we open up the door to the production floor. It’s massive, with individual stations for every stage of manufacture, each manned by a skilled employee. “We’re like a big family and everyone is proud to produce the best air-ride solutions possible right here in our home town,” Corey continues. It’s plain to see that incredible care is taken at every level. Everyone knows their each job and every component is important to the function of the overall system and the level of quality control is akin to that of an OE manufacturer.
Moving around the factory floor we also learn that the integrated control unit and manifolds are made in-house. Just past the numerous CNC machines, air bag presses and huge reels of air-line the electronic control boards are mated to the distinctive black cases. “We even made the tool that makes the manifolds,” Corey chuckles. We guess when these guys say everything is in-house, they aren’t joking! To give you an idea of the scale of the operation, Corey explains that Air Lift Performance get through a minimum of six million feet of air-line tubing and ten million feet of wiring each year!
Just away from the shop floor are the development bays, each with an accompanying engineer. At the time of our visit the development engineers were adding the finishing touches to Air Lift Performance’s latest BMW applications and putting them through simulated cold weather and vibration testing. Here in the development area vehicles are stripped to component form and reverseengineered to allow Air Lift Performance to perfectly integrate an air-ride system where a coil sprung system once lived. It’s a tricky balance of increasing driving performance and maintaining ride comfort while allowing a stunning drop but it’s a formula Air Lift Performance have down to a fine art. With the largest application list in the world, each built with Air Lift Performance’s unique attention to detail, heritage and technology, it’s no wonder Air Lift Performance is the world leader in air suspension technology.
Hundreds of thousands of people have made the switch to Air Lift Performance air-ride and regularly use the #LIFEONAIR and #AIRLIFT hash tags to show off their projects, the latter having over 375,000 posts!
While aftermarket air suspension may seem like a recent innovation, Air Lift has been producing air-ride since 1949. In the early days of stock car racing (which later became NASCAR) Air Lift suspension provided the edge over the competition by individually altering spring rates at each corner with additional air bags. At the end of the race, the air was released and the car could be driven home from the circuit as normal. By adding 1-20psi to the air bag the spring rate could be altered by up to 70kg and represented a very early version of adaptive suspension. When applied to the outside wheels on an oval circuit the cars were unbeatable.
Development is relentless at Air Lift Performance. Dedicated engineers work around the clock to reverse engineer OE suspension systems and perfectly integrate Air Lift Performance components. Air Lift Performance is serious about performance, and as such in-house race technicians ensure the finished Air Lift Performance suspension solution allows perfect geometry settings for both road and track. It’s amazing to see such careful consideration given to camber, droop, ride-height and damping characteristics. Each is tailored to the individual application and rigorously tested before being given the seal of approval.