Ray Graham has had some great success in the industry thanks to hard work and never being afraid to give something new a go

Ray Graham

Automotive aftermarket stalwart Ray Graham is a pinup for the adage that entrepreneurs never retire, but he does admit he has slowed down a bit in recent years and now plays a bit more golf than he used to.
Ray was born in Melbourne and grew up in the regional town of Traralgon in Gippsland, Victoria.
He began his working career in the family business in 1965. His father and uncle ran a company manufacturing and selling fruit juice, known as Aygee.
“The business is a 70-plus year-old family business in Traralgon that my father and his brother started way back around 1951, manufacturing and distributing fruit juices all over Gippsland, and later on soft drinks, eventually winning first prize at the Royal Melbourne show in 1958,” Ray explains.
“Nowadays the company is a major confectionery distributor for all regions of Gippsland, with famous brands such as Allens, Cadbury, Schweppes, Cool Ridge, Bundaberg, Pepsi, Red Bull, Smiths chips, Kimberly-Clark and numerous others. It has over 4,000 lines.”
With a solid grounding in entrepreneurship gained from the family business, Ray moved to Melbourne in 1968 where he worked in sales – and it wasn’t long before he followed his passion for cars and found himself joining an automotive aftermarket company.
“I helped to set up the very first marketing and distribution channels of Armor All Protectant and eventually set up a large team of accessory sales reps and installers servicing car dealerships all around Melbourne,” Ray says.
In 1969 Ray started Suntastic Accessories – Van Makers Australia in the Melbourne suburb of Cheltenham, installing sunroofs, roof and boot racks and other specialised accessories.
Then in 1971 he established Auto Cosmetics in Dandenong and began working directly with the Australian OEM vehicle makers and vehicle importers including Ford, HSV, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Suzuki and Honda.

In 1984 he changed the trading name to Burg Design and partnered up with Burg Design Austria (Europe) and never looked back from there as the business dramatically expanded.
“Burg Design Australia became the largest and best manufacturer in the world of automotive, marine and motorcycle decals, emblems, custom badges and specialty trim products for OEM vehicle manufacturers and many others,” Ray explains.
Ray has had some amazing successes over the years and is known in the industry as having the ‘Golden Touch.’
Some of these success stories include the invention of headlight covers for cars and trucks, where he pioneered the business and sold almost a million sets in the first 18 months.
Then, while visiting the Frankfurt Motor Show one year, he came up with an idea to develop the first ever artificial wood grain interior trim sets for cars, trucks, boats and other vehicles. These were designed in Australia and manufactured in Austria and sold worldwide to both OEMs and the Aftermarket.
More recently, he introduced one of the first ever parking sensors into Australia and went on to sell more than two million sets.
Being the super positive person he always is, somewhat unsurprisingly, Ray refuses to dwell on any negative or bad experiences. When asked what business decisions he got wrong, he simply answers: “luckily I never found that out!”
He describes his secret for success as “passion, imagination, new product development, and creation,” while “thinking outside of the square,” he says, is also important.
When it comes to his competitive advantage, he states that comes down to “only ever offering for sale quality products that are fully tested, and fit-for-purpose,” while he also believes offering exceptional customer service is paramount to success.

When asked to describe what his business is in a nutshell, he says in the past it has focused on functional and cosmetic auto accessories while presently it mostly deals with unique, quality electronic auto accessories.
While in the past his customers have included car manufacturers and importers and the aftermarket, today the emphasis is on aftermarket accessory outlets, auto electricians, and mobile auto accessory installers.
His advice to anyone starting out in their working life is to “try to find work in an industry you are passionate about and then you just make sure that you are going to be the very best and most innovative and creative person that has ever worked in that industry,” he says.
While admitting he doesn’t have a lot of experience as the applicant in job interviews as he’s always worked for himself, he says whenever he has interviewed people for various roles in his businesses, he has always looked for manners, presentation, positivity, passion and someone who is a good listener.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, Ray has a long-held passion for all things ‘cars.’ His first was a carnation red MGA 1600.
“I had lots of great drives to various locations around Victoria with lots of friends in that car,” Ray says.
“However, it was very difficult to make my golf clubs fit into the passenger seat,” he jokes.
Family is very important to Ray. He has two brothers and a sister, and three daughters.
“One brother is four years older and retired; my other brother is 10 years younger and still working in the family business in Traralgon; and my sister has a horse breeding stud farm in Traralgon,” he says.
Ray becomes extremely animated when asked about the future of the world’s automotive industry, especially in relation to the current push into electric vehicles.

“The automotive industry as we know it will remain mostly the same for many years to come, which is great because life will become far more difficult and dangerous if we are all forced into EVs,” he says.
“I personally do not believe in the future of EV vehicles, especially in Australia.”
He questions the claims of overall lower emissions.
“How it is possible to ever really prove the low emissions claims? It just means that the city air may be cleaner, but the location of the electricity production will not! Remember, the power has to come from somewhere. We are just shifting the emissions to somewhere else,” he said.
“You also have to question if it really has any benefits to anyone other than the vehicle manufacturers. The whole structure of moving to EV has not been thought out very well in my opinion and there are so many obstacles in the way of its future.”
Ray’s business life has been an incredible journey and while he muses that it may be time for him to sell the business and head into retirement, it is hard to ever imagine that happening.
“Maybe it is time to play more golf, do more travel, and play with my extensive collection of unique cars,” the 74-year-old business owner says when asked what the future holds.
But he quickly follows that up by saying how much he loves the business, and the industry.
“I have been in the industry for just on 55 years because I love it,” he enthuses.

To learn more about Burg Design, visit