At a time when Australia's biggest vehicle manufacturers have to be subsidised to the tune of $200 million a year to survive, how is it that a mere slip of a car maker based in Melbourne says the sky's the limit?Tomcar Australia just may be the future of manufacturing - small and focused on niche market segments to cater for individual needs rather than the mass market.
The company, which has recently produced its 34th vehicle, sells tiny but tough off-roaders on the internet.
The cars look a tad like a 21st-century version of a Mini Moke, but CEO and Co-Founder David Brim says their low centre of gravity gives them the performance edge over the more fancied (so-called) off-road special utility vehicles.You won't find a Tomcar ferrying children in the suburbs - so far the demand has been almost all from the agricultural sector."We work on a demand pull strategy rather than a retail push one," says Brim.
"That way we can engage directly with the customers and get feedback from them more easily. The old distribution model is broken. Manufacturers find themselves having to heavily discount to get rid of stock. They'll throw in this for that just to get stock clearances,'' he says.Tomcar Australia sees itself as a disrupter - no car showrooms, no dealers, no middlemen. The car is the result of eight years of research. Brim and his brother Michael bought the patent from the original Israeli manufacturer - which used it purely for military purposes - and brought the concept to Australia.
The vehicle needed revamps to its braking, electrical and cooling systems. Its big selling point is that it is so simply made that any bush mechanic can fix it. It is also bound together with an extremely tough metal frame, which the company has tested by hurtling the vehicle off a cliff. "
It came out of that pretty well," beams Brim.He says 60 per cent of the car is locally made and is looking to raise this to 80 per cent in the near future. So far only a few have been created - the basic car without add-ons costs is $28,000 including GST. Brim says there is interest from search and rescue forces as well as the military, but the company is focusing primarily on the agricultural sector.
While it began making the car in late 2011 through its manufacturing partner MTM, the vehicle is still only available to order. There is a three-week wait, which should shorten as demand grows. Brim expects revenue to increase eight to tenfold in the next two to three years.
"The people who said we were crazy when we first started this are the same people who now all want a piece of the action," he laughs. Brim wants to have a word with the new government."
So far, Australian governments have not been very intelligently focused on the car industry. Throwing $200 million at the big car makers is a waste of money. We have an automotive ecosystem here with some of the world's best manufacturers and engineers. We need to encourage niche cars - that's the future, not massive production vehicles. We'll never compete with Asia on that score."
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We love every Tomcar we build. We know every owner.
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