By Ashley Reyes
The SEMA Truck & Off-Road Alliance (TORA) has named AWE as this week’s member spotlight company. Get to know their story in SEMA’s interview with AWE Vice President Jesse Kramer.
SEMA: Tell us the story of your company. How did your company start?
Jesse Kramer: AWE started as an installer of performance parts in 1991. AWE was originally called “Air and Water Enterprises,” and was founded by Todd Sager, who still remains as the president and CEO today. The company began with early air-cooled Volkswagens, grabbing a name for itself in the underserved Euro performance space.
Before long, the brand moved into Audi and Porsche—focusing on everything from big power kits to exhaust manufacturing. In 2010, the company began a strategy to further refine what the brand meant: high-performance parts manufacturing, focused on exhausts, intakes and intercoolers, and we jettisoned tangential offerings.
In 2016, AWE began its next chapter by moving beyond just European vehicle parts, with the entrance into the Mustang exhaust space. This paved the way for AWE to become known as not just a household name in the European exhaust, intake and intercooler performance space, but also the broader aftermarket. Today, we have about 80 superstars creating AWE brand performance products that are sold globally through our preferred network of dealers, online and from our state-of-the-art headquarters outside of Philadelphia.
The brand manufactures performance parts for Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Toyota, Porsche, Subaru, McLaren, Volkswagen, RAM, Dodge, Chevrolet, Jeep and Honda. Since 1991, AWE's elite team of researchers, engineers, innovators and drivers have track-tested and introduced premium performance upgrades for some of the finest automobiles in the world.
SEMA: What was your company’s breakthrough moment?
JK: There are definitely a few. First, was the patenting of AWE’s drone cancelling solution, 180 Technology. Making an exhaust fit is one thing, making it unlock performance, last forever, and sound the part outside of the cabin while keeping the interior virtually drone-free are quite another thing. 180 Technology is now patented, and it’s featured in almost all of the exhaust suites offered catalog.
The second break through was entering the off-road and truck market with unique exhaust offerings for Jeep, Bronco, TRX, Tacoma, Silverado, F-150 and more. Lastly, I feel like every day is a breakthrough—this is a team that does not accept “standard.” We have a core value that is “We Build Better,” and it applies to everything from the latest Tacoma exhaust to go-to-market strategies. We love competition. And we love winning.
SEMA: Tell us about your business now and projects you are working on.
JK: Today, we’re heavy into development of many new product lines for the off-road market, mostly circling the AWE 0FG exhaust line. We’re innovating special solutions that are as much about high-clearance as they are about the sound that people have come to expect from AWE. We’ll do all of this while not turning our backs on our roots in Euro and Supercars—we’re engineering everything from McLaren exhaust to the new Jeep 392, and we’re bringing something special to every application.
SEMA: Tell us about a product that you are proud of.
JK: I’m partial to our Bronco exhaust line. The innovation on this one was extra strong. We kept dealers in mind: 2.3T, 2.7TT, two-door and four-door applications—all covered via one exhaust. We made it 3 in. We engineered a bespoke mounting bracket allows for 2.3T installation without bumper removal. We included an AWE BashGuard in every configuration to provide best-in-class clearance on the fly, we made tip options that are downright unique, and we even chose locking collars for exhaust hangers to prevent movement.
All handcrafted from CNC mandrel-bent, U.S.-sourced .065-in.-wall T304L stainless steel, proudly engineered, designed and manufactured in-house, in the United States with a Perfect Fitment Guarantee—AWE No CEL Guarantee and Lifetime warranty. I do love this line. But we have so many children, how can you choose one?
SEMA: What advice do you have for young professionals contemplating a career in the automotive aftermarket?
JK: Many people entering the industry feel that because they are car people they will do well in the aftermarket. But that’s not it. Lots of people love cars. The key is to have a specialty—one that could be applied to any industry—then apply it to your passion in automotive. Not the other way around. Otherwise you’re letting the tide take you. Become an expert, layer in passion, and boom, you’re a sought-after entity in this fun world we’re all living in!
Fill out a TORA-member spotlight form to highlight how you or your company are contributing to the truck and off-road specialty-equipment industry. Selected candidates are eligible to be featured on TORA’s social media, SEMA News and future TORA member updates.