Powersteel is one of several companies that emerged from the privatisation of Tartu Automobile Works in 1997. The history of Tartu Automobile Works itself can be traced back to late 40's, building truck and bus bodies mostly based on the Russian made GAZ commercial vehicles. Fast forward to the late 90's and Powersteel is still sticking to its roots as a truck body builder, these times focusing on demountable container (hook-lift or cable) and skip manufacture and repair.
Other lines of business include various structural steel products and some subcontract work. In early 2000's Powersteel started manufacturing agricultural machinery such as various trailers for a customer in Finland. You are most welcome to browse our history timeline for more detailed information below. For all the photos and information on this page we are grateful to Tarvo Puusepp over at kodu.pri.ee/ta (which is a fantastic Tartu Automobile Works history site over the five decades of its existence).
Tartu Automobile Works was established on the 1st of September, 1949 with 95 employees at temporary premises. The factory got off to a good start having repaired 8 cars and 33 engines and grown to 140 people by year's end.
The 50's saw all repair work of GAZ vehicles being consolidated into Tartu Automobile Works. Besides trucks, manufacture of various passenger bus bodies began at the factory. Also, the shop floor processes, factory layouts and assembly lines were introduced at the time. The organisation grew to around 350 people by the end of the decade.
In 1961, grocery vans TA-9 and TA-10 saw the light of day. The latter, on the right in the photo, had a fiberglass cabin. In 1966 ultrasonic cleaning process was introduced in the factory.
By 1971, the workforce had grown to 756 people, which was probably the greatest number throughout the history of the organisation. The grocery truck on the right, TA-943 entered the assembly line. Interestingly, as was customary at the times, this truck was all for hauling around bread, not just any type of groceries.
Employees at the company now numbered just over 700. A new type of bodies was introduced in the production, the cargo box with side doors, mounted on a popular Kamaz chassis. 1980 brought along an expansion of factory space as a new, 5000m2 factory building was completed at Ringtee st in Tartu (this is also where we are at currently). In 1988, as a sign of changing times the company switched to a self-sufficient model, which meant weaning itself off of centrally planned production.
The 90s proved critical to the company. Due to demand for company's products all but disappearing, it was necessary to change focus. By and large, the company was quite successful entering new lines of business. This decade saw the first hook-lift containers and swap bodies being made to customers in Finland and Denmark. As a result, hook-lifts gradually became one of the most important product lines for the company. In 1997 the Tartu Automobile Works was privatised to an Estonian-Dutch joint venture company. After restructuring, one of the businesses was incorporated as Powersteel Ltd. in 1999 and sold to new investors the following year. Current owners have been with the company since then.
In early 2000's Powersteel started manufacturing agricultural equipment such as various trailers for an OEM in Finland. This line of business grew steadily and proved to be less cyclical in times of recession in 2009. Number of employees gradually diminished from around 50 to 40 people by the end of the decade reflecting a continuous drive for improving work productivity.
Today Powersteel makes hook-lift containers, flat-bed platforms, agricultural machinery such as cultivators and tractor drawn trailers, truck mounted bodies, hook-lift and forestry trailers, conveyor systems, swap bodies and loader buckets, all made to our customer OEMs' specifications with the help of highly-skilled and experienced engineering team in-house.