Tough Dog Suspension buyout for $70 million
Aeroklas Asia Pacific, a 4WD accessories and automotive parts business owned by a Thai-listed company, has acquired John Agostino’s Tough Dog Sydney-based after-market suspension company, for AU$70 million.
Outback Travel Australia’s Allan Whiting remembers the Tough Dog start-up, when it was known as Four-Way. The initial products were US-designed and made, coil-over-shock absorbers that worked particularly well on early Range Rovers that were the first 4WDs to have all-coil suspension.
Australian buyers didn’t like the ‘soggy’ ride quality of early Rangies and Four-Way’s coil spring mounted on the shock absorber body stiffened the ride, while simultaneously reducing body away when cornering.
The Four-Way design wasn’t suited to all 4WDs, but John Agostino and his fledgling engineering maestro, Simon Vella, kept plugging away, producing shocks to suit all popular Australian 4WDs.
Over the years the brand achieved recognition sufficient to merit international expansion. Tough Dog suspensions are now sold all around the world.
Allan Whiting remembers discussing the ‘Four-Way’ name with John Agostino, long after the coil-over-shock product had morphed into the design of a steering damper – one of which is fitted to the Outback Travel Australia LandCruiser 75 Series, along with a full Tough Dog suspension kit.
‘Ago’ opted for ‘Bulldog’ as the new brand name and AW thought that might attract unfavourable interest from truck maker, Mack, which had trademarked ‘Bulldog’ in the automotive arena. Such proved to be the case and a quick rebranding saw ‘Tough Dog’ adopted.
Success and takeover
Tough Dog’s pre-eminence attracted the attention of Aeroklas Asia Pacific that already owns 4WD suspension and accessories maker, TJM; canopy maker, Flexiglass and Bocar, which makes aluminium trays. Aeroklas Asia Pacific’s parent company is Eastern Polymer Group, which is listed on the stock exchange in Thailand.
Fortunately, Aeroklas is maintaining the Tough Dog business model and retaining all 32 staff.