Value for money
cruise control value How do you measure 'Value for money'? Is it the initial cost?
Or is it a combination of quality, performance, reliability, longevity and customer
service? We know our kit seems expensive when compared to low-end car cruise controls.
So value has to be measured against what you receive for your money:
- Car cruise
controls are not designed for motorcycles. Connection to the carburetor or throttle
body is generally via a floppy bead-chain arrangement. I know, because the first
kit I put on my Honda VFR750 in 1996 was a car cruise control. it worked reasonably
well, but i had nothing to compare it too. And three months after installing it
i was doing an advanced rider training course at the Phillip Island GP circuit
when at 235kph at the end of the main straight, the throttle jammed! That got
a bit interesting, but I survived to tell the tale, identified the cause of the
problem and a month later, conceived our 'cable interface unit' (CIU) to overcome
the safety issues.
- My brother happens to be a mechanical draftsman, so he turned
concept into reality and we had a choice of building one CIU for $1200, or twenty
for $2000. We took a chance, borrowed $5K from Dad and started our business in
- The development of the CIU made it possible to interface car cruise
controls safely to the throttle body or carburetors on modern motorcycles. Note
the word 'safely', because that has always been, and still is, a keystone of our
- The next challenge our business faced was ridiculous product liability
insurance costs. The first premium paid in 1997 was $1500 per annum - until we
sold product into the USA! Our first web site went live in April, 1997 and ensured
that by May we were getting enquiries from the USA. As soon as we sold one kit
to the States, the liability insurance jumped to $5000 per annum - for a maximum
of 1000 kits per year. By year 2000, the premium for the same number of kits was
up to $25,000 p.a. Then our insurer, HIH, collapsed. Similar cover written in
the Bahamas wasn't worth the paper it was written on. Then 911 happened - and
you couldn't insure anything, anywhere, anyhow. Certainly not our products. So
we had a choice - continue to trade without insurance, fold the business, or figure
out a way to make sure our products never produced a dangerous situation. We chose
the latter, found a venture capital partner, sold him 34% of the business and
poured two years and a great deal of money into designing and building our own
cruise control computer module with every safety feature we could think of.
years later we have not had one claim! But I am jumping past an important event in our lives and our business:
in 1999 when we had a car cruise control in one of our kits fail in a very dangerous
way. The owner was here in Australia - thank God! - and he had been very happy
with his cruise control on his Honda VFR800 for more than 18 months. Then he took
it in for a routine service. When he got the bike back, the cruise control kept
dropping out for no apparent reason. It had been faultless beforehand. Unfortunately
he didn't let us know about it and a couple of weeks after the service he was
riding with his wife on the back at about 50kph (30mph) - tail end charlie on
a club ride. Suddenly, with no warning, the bike pulled full throttle. I mean
FULL throttle! Instantly! He didn't have the presence of mind to hit the kill
switch or pull the clutch in - just kept applying the brakes, until the front
wheel locked up and they both fell off. Fortunately no-one was seriously hurt
- if you don't call his wife's broken ankle serious! The thing is they could easily
have been dead! Our hearts stopped when we heard about it, as our suppliers had
told us this could NOT happen. Well, let me tell you it can and it does with car
cruise controls. Do a search on google for 'sudden unexpected acceleration'. You
will be dismayed at the results. It is really scary. You do NOT want that sort
of technology on a 100 plus horsepower motorcycle, let me tell you.
liability insurance cleaned up the mess, fixed the bike and the people, but we
had to think long and hard about whether we would stay in business. We knew we
had a good product, but if it wasn't safe, that wasn't acceptable to us, but we
already had product out there, so the potential was there for another incident.
We had no choice - we had to find a way to make these things safe.
- My brother
is a genius! From where I am standing anyway. His breadth of technical expertise
is extraordinary. He put his thinking cap on and came up with a way to ensure
the rider maintained control of the vehicle no matter what - and it was affordable,
could be fitted to all new cruise controls we made AND could be retro-fitted.
So we were able to keep trading.
- In 2000 we started producing cruise controls
for ATVs for agricultural spraying. They were an instant success and pro-active
dealers recognised it. The product took off here in Australia for the next 2 years......and
then the drought hit! Concurrently the price of grapes dropped from $2000 per
tonne to about $300 per tonne and the market dried up. Who ever said business
- Concurrently, we got an Austrade trade start grant and i went
to the Tulare World Agricultural Expo in California to promote our product in
2001. The manufacturer of our only competitor in this market, PBM Supply in Chico,
California, instantly asked to become a vendor of our product. We agreed and have
had a close relationship with them ever since.
- In 2003 we released our new product
range based on the new computer module we designed, developed and manufactured
- hardware and software. This product addressed core problems we encountered in
the automotive cruise controls where trying to figure out why a cruise wasn't
working was very difficult - especially over the phone from the other side of
the planet! That product included special diagnostic functions so that the cruise
could easily be tested before the vehicle went anywhere. It also had 'stop codes'
built in which meant that if the cruise wouldn't engage or unexpectedly disengaged,
the unit told us why and assisted in diagnosing the problem and correcting it
- a huge leap forward in supporting the product.
- Around 2005, the exchange rate
to the USA dropped to about $1.00AUD = $0.48USD - so Americans could buy the product
for less than half the cost here in Australia. Since around 90% of our product
sold to the USA this made them very affordable. Over the ensuing years the value
of the US dollar has dropped. Nothing to do with us - our product didn't change,
our margin din't alter, but the cost doubled - in the States.
- Despite this, we
are still here. Not rich, but alive. Why? Because we make things that last, do exactly what they are
supposed to do, are safe and we support them. It is that simple. That is real