DRIVING INNOVATION THROUGH PASSION AND PRECISION
While still relatively new, Saber Offroad has quickly cemented its position as a premier Australian Vehicle Recovery Brand
Ben Bartlett, who will be well known to many in the automotive aftermarket industry having spent almost a decade working at the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association, launched the Saber Offroad brand late in 2017 after discovering a passion for the growing 4×4 market.
“After my time at the AAAA came to an end, I was on the hunt for a new challenge,” Ben said.
“I knew that I’d still be working in the automotive aftermarket industry, and there were several options on the table at the time, but I decided to go it alone and started my own business, MercuryPM in early 2015.”
MercuryPM focuses on exporting Australian brands around the world, with a particular focus on Asia and the Middle East. While launching a new business is always risky, MercuryPM grew quickly, attracting a high-profile clientele and confirming that Ben was on the right track.
But for Ben, the big transition started in early 2017 with the formation of Saber Offroad, which quickly has become the centrepiece of MercuryPM.
“It’s been a very exciting journey, but not without its challenges, of course,” Ben remarked.
Saber Offroad has quickly become a leading Australian brand in specialist recovery gear.
“Our main focus is on soft products and the Saber Offroad range includes kinetic recovery ropes, soft shackles and winch ropes,” Ben explained.
“Recently, we extended our offering to include complementary products, of which the launch of our Ezy-Glide Recovery Ring has been a stand-out, generating incredibly strong sales.”
In several export markets, Saber Offroad also carries some specialist suspension components, including sway bars, control arms and polyurethane bushes. With the vast majority made here in Australia, Saber Offroad is a truly global Australian brand.
“2020 is already proving to be a massive year for new product development,” Ben said.
Ben explains that MercuryPM has an agile business structure, allowing it to pivot quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which time it has sped up R&D for a number of exciting new projects.
“Rather than rest on our laurels, we switched our focus to product development during the pandemic and as a result we anticipate more than doubling our range by September 2020; with a second wave of new products scheduled for launch before the end of the year,” Ben said.
Innovation is a cornerstone of the Saber Offroad success story, and that extends into all aspects of the business. A great example of this was the unique sales strategy employed to grow the brand.
“We have grown a little differently than most Australian brands,” said Ben.
“Rather than starting locally and gradually expanding into export markets, we initially focused on growing key export markets in the Middle East and South East Asia.
“MercuryPM already had a good customer base in these regions, speeding up the Saber Offroad launch far easier and much faster than focusing primarily on local sales,” he added.
Domestically Saber Offroad are planning for 12 months of strong growth, with a renewed focus on Australian sales. With a rapidly expanding range, they are expecting more independent 4WD stores to stock Saber Offroad Recovery gear.
In addition, Saber Offroad Recovery gear can be purchased online through A247, Sparesbox, and others, plus Saber Offroad’s own e-comm site.
“Prior to COVID-19, we planned to have a large stand at the 2020 SEMA Show, signalling our push into the North American market. Unfortunately, this push into one of the world’s most lucrative and competitive markets has slowed, with our participation at the show looking increasingly unlikely due to current restrictions,” Ben explained.
In January of this year, Steve Handbury joined Ben Bartlett as Director – Product Development and Partner in MercuryPM. Steve brings with him a wealth of business experience, combined with a passion for four-wheeled adventure.
“Having Steve join the business was the next big step in our expansion, and with his focus primarily on Saber Offroad, we are already starting to reap the rewards of his business acumen and know-how,” Ben said.
For more than a decade, Steve has had a personal interest in off-road recovery systems, which culminated in the development of a social media account @79skooby.
The relationship started when Steve bought a selection of Saber Offroad gear very soon after the brand was launched in Australia. Following that, the pair continued chatting about their shared passion for off-roading to the point where Ben asked Steve to assist with some early prototype testing. As they say, the rest is history, and it was not long before they both agreed that working together would be mutually beneficial.
“The opportunity to work with Ben, along with the huge potential of the Saber Offroad brand basically enticed me out of an early retirement,” Steve said.
Ben and Steve both agree their focus on innovation is the most significant competitive advantage. For 4WD enthusiasts, agricultural and industrial professionals, Saber Offroad provides vehicle recovery solutions designed specifically to recover vehicles quickly and safely.
“We invest heavily in research, product development, and testing to ensure our products out-perform the competition in all conditions, and we are confident when we say that very few other brands understand the technical complexities of recovering vehicles like we do,” Steve explained.
Saber Offroad is the first Australian brand, and one of only a couple globally, to have products manufactured using their own proprietary fibre. As a result, the team are about to transition the majority of its range to the ‘SaberPro’ fibre (excluding kinetic ropes), where the ‘Pro’ is for proprietary
“We’ve tested so many different fibres, both in blends and on their own, and believe our solution is truly world-class,” Steve said.
“The cheaper fibres have weaknesses when it comes to shock loads, and they feel hard, making them difficult to handle.”
Both Ben and Steve agree that selecting quality business partners is key, and they believe their strong relationships with key local laboratories and associated facilities is critical to their success.
“We test all our prototypes in both real-world environments, but importantly in NATA accredited facilities,” Steve said.
“In addition, we batch test all our gear in the same facilities and include the batch number on our warning labels to give our customers confidence in their strength.
“Going the extra mile has really resonated in the industry, and we see it as paramount to the growth of the brand.”
The next big thing on the horizon for the team is the launch of a new premium range of Saber Offroad: HDX.
“All products in our HDX range are designed to push the envelope in terms of strength, durability, and performance,” Ben said.
“The first product launched in this range will be a soft shackle only 10 percent larger in diameter, however 70 percent stronger than our current sheath or bound shackles.
“There is not a shackle on the market offering that level of strength, in an equivalent size, and we’ve also wrapped the shackle in a cut-resistant Technora sheath, making it the most durable soft shackle available anywhere.”
In addition, Ben and Steve recently worked with the team at the AAAA’s Auto Innovation Center in Mulgrave to 3D print some exciting new prototypes, and as a result, they plan to have variations of these products in the market before the end of the year.
Like most Australian brands, Saber Offroad is battling the flood of cheap and inferior products that drop into the market without any local testing.
“We recently tested a soft shackle from a well-known international brand and found it broke 20 percent below its stated breaking point. As a result, we would love to see more mandatory product standards around recovery gear, however, that seems unlikely in the short-medium term,” Ben said.
Having spent almost ten years working with the AAAA, Ben has seen first-hand the way members and their association work collaboratively together.
“The AAAA is a fantastic industry resource that gives the Australian Automotive Aftermarket a voice and the work they have done on the Choice of Repairer campaign has been one of the biggest success stories for the industry in the last decade,” Ben said.