The fledgling Federal Republic of Germany had barely been founded when German car owners were already giving their prize pieces a good shine with car care products from Sonax. As one of the pioneers in the development and production of car care products, the then Neuburg-based family company Franz Hoffmann & Söhne KG first brought products to market under the brand “Sonax” in 1950. In the 70th year of its existence, the company now known as Sonax GmbH has successfully taken on the special challenges of the crisis and is there to support its retail partners and clients.
“Stay home” – that was the motto that company owner and Managing Director Manfred Hoffmann announced early on in the anniversary year. This and many other health protection measures enabled the company based in Neuburg an der Donau to continue on its successful journey through the crisis. The driver for the success continues to be the high-performance range of products: including paintwork care products, manual interior and exterior cleaning products and winter care products. With products for use in car washes, for professional car valeting services, utility vehicle care and a wide range of industrial and trade applications, the company is now more diversified than almost any other manufacturer on the market.
Far-sighted commercial decision-making
Sonax GmbH is the highest-turnover branch of the Hoffmann Group. The group of companies also includes Hoffmann
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Mineral GmbH, which continues to extract and process Neuburg silica, as well as Duro Druck GmbH, which is successfully active in the label printing market.
The management of Sonax GmbH took a far-sighted commercial decision at the beginning of their anniversary year to switch part of its operations to produce hand sanitiser. With its expertise in the production of cleaning agents, the Neuburg company was able to offer a product that met World Health Organisation (WHO) specifications, in no time at all. And this was urgently needed by public organisations and medical and social institutions.
Thanks to state-of-the-art production facilities and available raw materials, Sonax was very quickly able to close these supply gaps in regional and national organisations. The hand sanitiser is also available nationwide via the classic distribution channels for all retail customers and thus for private households in container sizes from 50 millilitres to 25 litres. In addition, a hand sanitising cloth was also successfully brought onto the market, and a surface disinfectant is being developed.
“We have approached this new area of application with all available means and resources and were able to help not only our company but many people during this crisis. We were very pleased about this and encouraged to develop a new business area on this basis,” explains Manfred Hoffmann. “But interest in car care has also risen sharply in recent months,” stresses Manfred Hoffmann. “Customers still find it important to maintain their car's value which we are of course very happy about - after all, it is our core business.”
This success story follows on seamlessly from the company's history, which has repeatedly proven that times of crisis also offer up opportunities for a company's further development. The history of the Sonax brand goes back to the beginning of the last century. As early as 1903, the great-grandfather of the company’s current owner, Manfred Hoffmann, began to mine Neuburg silica, a very fine mineral unique in the world, which was used in many polishes by manufacturers of household care products. After the second world war, the company added another string to its bow in the production of care products. On 11 May 1949, amidst the turmoil of post-war Germany, two brands were registered and patented: the “Sona” brand was primarily intended to be used as a household silver polish, and the brand name “Sonax” was coined for car care products with the addition of an “x” as a synonym for “wax”. This is how the company forged its way into the car care industry.
Making the ice melt
It was only gradually that other car care products were added to the paintwork care products. This included the development of an effective de-icing fluid in the Neuburg laboratory which was the first to reach the market in an aerosol can and achieved incredible sales in the harsh winter of 1962. Between 1960 and 1973, the number of cars on the road increased fourfold, the number of miles driven increased threefold and the length of motorway in Germany doubled. Demand for car care products also increased rapidly – and with it the success of the Sonax brand. It was during these years that a genuine interior cleaner, “Unirein”, was developed especially for synthetic surfaces in cars.
In the mid-80s, the Neuburg-based company began to develop Sonax with its current logo in large red letters as the premium umbrella brand for cars. The product range was constantly expanded and the memorable brand image, advertising and sponsoring activities helped to gain ever greater renown. Thanks to successful partnerships in motorsports such as with Hans-Joachim Stuck, Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, the brand made a name for itself, both at home and abroad. Another boost for the company's development was provided by the German reunification, with sales doubling within a short time after 1989. Today, the brand is represented in more than 115 countries worldwide. The export share has grown by more than 43 per cent. Sonax products are represented throughout Europe and on all continents.
Brilliant performance on the toughest routes around the world
Sonax has been involved in motorsports for decades, which has been crucial in helping to shape the global image of the brand. It has also given the products with their red logo a unique attraction. Ayrton Senna, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Michael Schumacher, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jacques Villeneuve – these big names in motorsports have already zoomed across the finishing line with the Sonax logo on their cars or racing suits. After allowing leading teams in the DTM, such as the “Audi Sport Team ABT Sportsline”, and as “Official Supplier” the Formula 1 team “Infiniti Red Bull Racing” or the “Hoonigan Division” with drift icon Ken Block to shine, the company now supports numerous international teams on the world's toughest racing tracks. In October 2019, Sonax waved the starting flag for new, electrifying cooperation in international motorsports: as a partner for the “Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler” team in the “ABB FIA Formula E”.
“Made in Germany” – on a course for growth
The latest chapter in the company’s success story is being accompanied by major expansion activities. In 2008, the company moved into its new and spacious reception and administration building with state-of-the-art training rooms, which became the showpiece of the company on the Münchener Strasse. With the construction of a new centre for application technology in 2012, the course was set for reinforcing the research and development activities. Investment in the double-digit millions allowed the production and logistics capacities at the Neuburg headquarters to be expanded significantly. The new facilities were commissioned in 2014.
The long-established Neuburg-based company is now taking an even bigger step. It is currently investing in a second production and logistics site in nearby Oberhausen. To this end, Sonax has acquired a plot of around 14 hectares with an additional 14 hectares as an ecological compensation area. The ground-breaking ceremony for the 25 million euro project took place on 22 June 2020. A 22,500 square-metre logistics hall will go into operation in around two years. The construction of a new production hall with a further investment volume of 15 million euros is scheduled to start in 2025.
Sonax is thus meeting global requirements alongside a high level of commitment to its location, as owner and Managing Director Manfred Hoffmann explains: “We are at home in Neuburg, the town in which we were founded. Sonax is part of it.” This is why the Bavarians are consciously making a statement in their expansion path towards sustainability. “It was a central concern for us to underpin our economic development with an expansion which is also compatible with our environment, linked with saving energy and which is beneficial to species diversity. We are connecting our commercial future with the ecological future of the region,” says Hoffmann.