INNOVATION, EVOLUTION AND PERFORMANCE
Haltech brings all of these to the table, and more
Haltech says its name is synonymous with innovation and performance, and states its range of engine management products is widely regarded as the global industry benchmark – not bad for a business born in a garage back in 1986.
“Haltech was the brainchild of electronic engineer, Steven Mitchell,” Haltech President, Nathan Clark, said.
“Steven had a passion for cars, and in the mid-1980s, he started playing around with electronic fuel injection, which was still a pretty new thing at the time.”
If you cast your mind back to 1986, it was the year that General Motors Holden launched the iconic VL Commodore. It was available with two engine configurations, the much loved five-litre V8 with a carby sitting on top and the three-litre RB30E straight-six that was designed and manufactured by Nissan in Japan.
“Steven couldn’t have timed his run better,” Nathan said.
“The year 1986 was certainly a watershed year for automotive manufacturing in Australia, and while many Holden purists were shocked to see a Nissan engine under a bonnet wearing their beloved lion badge, it certainly signalled the dawn of a new era.”
Steven got his big break when Modern Motor Magazine contacted him to help them with an EFI four-litre project they were building for the magazine.
“The team at Modern Motor had been playing around with a four-litre EFI engine, but they got stuck with the tune,” Nathan said.
“They had heard that Steven had been playing around with EFI, and they reached out to him for help, and it was at this point Haltech was born.”
Of course, this initial design project was pretty fundamental compared to what Haltech produce today, but what made it unique was the fact that the car could be tuned in real-time.
“You’ve got to remember that PCs were pretty basic back in the mid-1980s, so to be able to actually live tune a car was a big jump and something that many OEMs couldn’t even do at the time,” Nathan said.
“What Steve had put together was a powerful bit of technology. He was truly an innovator and was the first to take a laptop and apply that to tuning engine management.”
Armed with the foresight that he was onto something big, Steve secured the patents, and Haltech was off and running.
“We had the patents on that live tune technology for 25 years,” Nathan said.
“When you look back, people were taking memory chips off the boards, flash tuning them, programming them with UV programmers, and then putting them back in, so to be able to plug in and live tune was a big deal.”
Once the patents were secured, Steven started building the original units and marketed them under the Haltech brand.
The initial module, dubbed the F2, only managed the fuel system. It was launched with some success, but when the Haltech F3 was released, it was a massive success that fortified Steven’s vision.
“We sold a stack of the F3 units and we still have customers bring them in to be checked occasionally,” Nathan said.
“It is just crazy that so many were out there in the field, and there is no doubt that the success of the business’s first decade can be attributed to the F3 unit.”
A little-known fact is that all Lada Niva Toro’s imported into Australia had a factory fitted Haltech ECU.
“It was our first experience dealing with an OEM and while it was pretty successful, the one thing we never considered was that for the next 15 years, people would go to the wreckers and grab the ECUs out of those things because you could get them converted back to normal standard Haltech configuration to install in their latest build,” Nathan said.
“While we didn’t realise it at the time, this gave us a heap of organic growth and allowed potential customers to trial our products cost-effectively, many of which have become brand advocates.”
Of course, growth and innovation in any industry is expensive. If you were to graph out Haltech’s sales timeline, the most significant increases came following a major investment in the business, which provided the team with the opportunity to spend big on research and development.
In 2004, the business was sold to a group of car guys that included Mark Bevan. Over the coming decade, Mark would buy out his partners’ shares and remain the sole owner until the recent sale to the US Private Equity firm, Middle Ground, which counts Race Winning Brands as part of its portfolio.
Before the sale to Race Winning Brands, Haltech already had two offices in the United States as well as offices in the UK, Austria, New Zealand, and the Philippines, in addition to its Australian location.
“The business grew exponentially under Mark’s stewardship,” Nathan said.
“Mark took Haltech from a well-respected Australian brand with a small US operation to a global powerhouse in the automotive aftermarket.”
During Mark’s time at the helm, the business invested heavily in product development. As each new product evolution was released, they were easier to tune and suitable for more engine applications.
Mark’s vision was for Haltech to become a solution-based company and evolve beyond the engine.
“Our reputation as engine management specialists is unparalleled, and while that’s still the focus of the majority of our product range, we’ve made a considerable investment in developing technology that’s going beyond the engine,” Nathan said.
The most recent evolution of the Haltech module, the R5, allows the user to manage a wide variety of systems, including fuel injection, electronic throttles, variable cam timing, automatic transmission control and power distribution.
“Full vehicle control is what we are working towards,” Nathan said.
“Our latest generation of products has what we refer to as power distribution functionality. Our new R5 module allows users to control power devices that would typically use a relay; such as fans and pumps for example, directly from the unit.
“The additional investment from our new owners will, of course, allow us to increase the speed at which we can bring new technology to market.”
The potential sale wasn’t on the radar, but approaches from several different companies in the United States were the catalyst for Mark to start thinking about an exit strategy.
“We did a stack of research to understand what the business could be worth, and from that, we identified a select few businesses that we thought would be a good fit and, more importantly, would continue the Haltech Legacy, which was extremely important to Mark,” Nathan said.
In the last decade, Haltech has evolved from a successful automotive aftermarket business with operations in Australia and the United States, to a global automotive lifestyle brand that incorporates a growing merchandise business.
“Earlier this year we had another successful Summernats, at which we sold out of Haltech Merch,” Nathan said.
“This proves that there is a heap of Haltech brand advocates out there, and we’re confident that Race Winning Brands will bring the capital and expertise required to take the business forward.”
As a result of the recent acquisition by Race Winning Brands, Haltech says it has joined an elite group that includes industry icons such as Dart, JE Pistons, Wiseco and Manley.
While it is early days, Nathan has already reported there is a plan in development to foster collaboration between the companies that fall under the Race Winning Brands umbrella.
“Currently, we are one of about 21 in that group, and they’ve still got more acquisitions in the pipeline,” Nathan said.
“The long-term goal is to work together and bring complete performance solutions to market. This could potentially see the launch of specific kits made up of parts from selected Race Winning Brands businesses sold together as a single part number. This will truly unlock the value of bringing together a set of companies with complementary components.”
Nathan also mentioned that Haltech has already started to engage with the team at Dart and are working with them to develop specific solutions for Dart customers.
As Haltech opens the page on its next chapter, its future certainly looks bright, proving that with a bit of ingenuity, a vision, and a lot of elbow grease, a company with humble beginnings can become a world leader.
To find out more about Haltech, visit www.haltech.com