Brakes has made a name for itself in the automotive aftermarket parts sector and looks forward to continued growth based on the quality of its products and services.
— MICHEL BEAUNOYER
Launched in 1989, the company, founded by Arsène Ohanian, has evolved over the years and found its market niche. Arsène Ohanian immigrated to Canada in 1967 and found work as a mechanic, started his first business, a service station, before choosing the automotive replacement parts sector. After searching for many years, AGNA Brakes was born, marking the Ohanian family’s decision to develop an expertise in this specific replacement parts sector.
As it was a family decision, naturally, Arsène’s son, Gary, soon came on board to promote its development.
“My Father was a mechanic, he owned repair shops, he was someone who understood the needs of automotive aftermarket technicians,” explains Gary, the current company president. This proximity to the customers, the end users, is still a crucial part of our business. The expertise, which we continue to develop today, is focused on meeting their needs for readily available, quality, affordable parts.”
The decision to focus solely on brake parts turned out to be the key to its success, as they are both known and renowned in this specific sector. “We’ve increased our sales tenfold since making that decision,” explains the company president. What’s more, our expertise allows us to significantly increase our sales year after year.”
AGNA Brakes recently centralized its distribution network and warehousing facilities in a 60,000 square foot building located in Montreal. “Over the past few years, we’ve developed a strategy of partnering with major aftermarket distributors who cover the entire Canadian market. Therefore, our parts are included in their inventories, which frees-up storage space and allows us to stock additional specialty products,” explains Gary Ohanian.
AGNA Brakes is committed to maintaining the best parts coverage for brake pads, shoes, discs and drums. Whenever a new vehicle model is launched, product development specialists examine its characteristics and specifications in order to offer OEM-quality replacement parts as soon as possible.
Product development and some of the manufacturing is performed here. But some of the machined parts are produced by our overseas partners. In fact, new product development is a passion that Gary shares with his brother, Raffi, who joined the company in 2002. Expertise is divided. Friction components are Gary’s responsibility while his brother is responsible for discs. “We have a research centre, but we also test parts on the vehicles in our fleet. Just like our father did before us, we believe in a hands-on approach when developing new parts that perform better than the originals.”
When it comes to research, AGNA brakes doesn’t cut corners. For example, they’ve developed copper-free ceramic brake pads, as this metal will soon be banned from friction part formulations for environmental reasons in some U.S. States. “These types of innovations give us a head start,” asserts Gary Ohanian. Our other core strength is our capability to provide solutions tailored for customers with specific needs.”
This approach has allowed them to diversify their offer into several application-based quality tiers. The 8,000 numbers in the AGNA parts catalogue are available in four quality levels for brake pads and linings, and two for brake discs and drums. The approach is backed by clinics that take place in their wholesale distributor partners’ facilities. This allows the distributors to educate technicians as to the optimal application and installation procedures, as well as introducing them to the latest products. “Our catchphrase is: install quality parts. When low-cost, mediocre parts are installed on customer vehicles, they are dissatisfied, and end up going back to the dealership.”
Most recently, Gary and Raffi’s sister, Elizabeth, returned to the family business after a lengthy foray in the insurance business. Her role is well-defined and strategic: manage customer relationships. “She will be our direct link with partners and clients,” says Gary Ohanian. In order to continually improve, we need to be responsible and listen to our customers. Elizabeth will disseminate information regarding the steady stream of new products that we make available for our network partners, but she will also be available to answer questions or requests from our technicians.”
With a team of twenty employees and its commitment to differentiating itself by the quality of its products, the AGNA Brakes team looks to the future with confidence. “We’re firmly established across Canada, and we’re open to entering the U.S. market if the right opportunity comes along. But we’re cautious. With the arrival of an asset such as Elizabeth, we’ll be able to continue to grow by solidifying the relationships with our distributors, and our technician partners, who know, as did my father, the importance in our business of always using quality replacement parts,” concludes Gary Ohanian.