16.08.13 - StartupSmart: Tomcar Grows Despite No Government Help for Manufacturing
Melbourne-based vehicle manufacturing start-up Tomcar Australia is midway through the production of its first run of all-terrain vehicles, all 100 of which have already been sold.
Prior to going into production this year, the Tomcar Australia team had been working on the start-up for years.
"We started production earlier this year after a seven-year uphill struggle and we finally have a line. We've just pumped our 25th car and are looking to double that in a few months," co-founder and chief executive David Brim told StartupSmart.
Tomcar is run from three laptops, with the manufacturing outsourced to automotive component maker MtM for three years. Based in the Melbourne suburb of Oakleigh South, MtM also works with Mazda, Jaguar, and Holden.
David's father and co-founder, Joe, was searching the internet for a retirement project when he came across the first iteration of the Tomcar, which was designed by the Israeli military.
After connecting with the Israeli defence force, Joe purchased the contract for design, manufacturing and distribution in Australia and surrounding region.
The Brim family, including the third co-founder, David's brother Michael, moved to Australia from London to launch the company just over seven years ago.
"It was going to be a small project of maybe a few hundred recreational vehicles a year. But it's a bigger product and vision now," Brim says. "We'll be scaling up to a 5000 vehicle a year project."
The key markets will be military, mining, agriculture and ecotourism.
"We saw huge potential for it in Australia and the more people we showed the car, the more applications it had," Brim says.
Given the vehicle's origins, the primary market will be defence. Brim says the Australian Defence Force is excited about it, and they're in negotiations with the New Zealand, Indonesian and Papua New Guinean armies.
The vehicles are off road, all-terrain vehicles with a low centre of gravity (54 centimetres). The four independent suspensions means the car has an industry leading ground clearance of over 38 centimetres.
"With the high ground clearance in a vehicle with the same extremely low centre of gravity as a Porsche, what we've got here are two statistics that don't usually sit side by side," Brim says.
Ex-Ferrari and Lotus engineer Darran Sexton joined the team a few years ago. They overhauled the vehicle so it was more like a car than an all-terrain vehicle.
"It took us just under six years to take the car from the drawing board prototype concept from Israel and convert it into a production-ready vehicle to sell in the Australian marketplace," Brim says. "We straight away saw the possibilities. The market was crying out for a machine like this, and we improved it."
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