THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

The origins of ARB go back to 1975, when company founder, Tony Brown, was inspired by a 4WDing trip through the top end of Australia

Today the company employs more than 2,000 people, many of which can be described as serious 4WD enthusiasts.
Back when Tony Brown started the business, 4WDers relied on homemade or ill-fitting equipment that was not designed for extensive Outback expeditions. Endless corrugated roads, extreme temperatures, and the heavy loads carried by Australian travellers were tremendously punishing on vehicles that regularly tackled these kinds of conditions.
Tony’s many years spent toiling on his Series 1 Land Rover proved highly beneficial to others in the top end during his travels. Damaged bull bars and broken roof racks ensured Tony’s expertise was called upon regularly. Through this experience, an idea was born: well-engineered, durable equipment that would meet the rigorous demands of 4WD owners.
After one of his many top-end adventures, returning home to Melbourne, Tony put theory into practice and began working in the family garage to address some of the product deficiencies he’d encountered on his trips.
“It was exactly what Australian 4WDers had been waiting for and ARB, the initials of Anthony Ronald Brown, was founded,” ARB Director of Sales and Marketing, Matthew Frost, explained.
Today, ARB says it is Australia’s largest manufacturer and distributor of 4×4 accessories.
“We have a vast international presence, with offices in the USA, Europe, and the Middle East, and an export network that extends through more than 100 countries around the globe,” Matthew explained.
“Our philosophy, however, has never wavered from its original course; quality, reliability, and practicality above all else.”
Tony’s two brothers, Andy and Roger, were quick to join the business as well. One, an MBA, was able to inject his business skills, and the other was a skilled engineer, and together the three grew the business quickly, leveraging their complementary skill sets.
“While Tony’s initial focus was on roof-racks, it was not long after launching the business that he started dabbling with bull bars and today, these are still the cornerstones of ARB’s continued success,” Matthew explained.
“It wasn’t long before the trio outgrew the confines of the family’s garage, moving the business to a rented factory in the outer Eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
“Of course, our exponential growth over the journey has seen us move many times. Even today, our international headquarters are still located in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.”

While Founder Tony Brown left the business just before Matthew started with ARB in 1993, Andy and Roger are still actively involved in the business today; Roger as Chairman, and Andy in the role of Managing Director.
ARB’s exceptional growth can be tracked in line with Australia’s ever-increasing appetite for 4WDs and their appreciation of quality products that are designed to perform even in the harshest conditions.
“One of the big game-changers in our industry is the launch of a new vehicle,” Matthew explained. “The first was the launch of the Toyota Land Cruiser 40 Series in the early 1980s.”
The 40 Series created a massive demand because it was tough, reliable, fuel-efficient, and that combination attracted the attention of an awful lot of people.
As a result, the team at ARB designed a range of protection and storage products specifically to suit the 40 series cruiser, effectively securing their position as Australia’s largest manufacturer and distributor of 4×4 accessories
“The Hilux was also a great vehicle for us,” said Matthew.
“It changed the way Australians purchased 4WDs. Before the Hilux and the 40 Series Land Cruiser were available, people would have been buying old Land Rovers and things like that.
“As the vehicle selection improves, more people started buying them, and then there was more demand for our products, and that still rings true today.”
The Hilux was one of the first vehicles for which ARB developed a complete fit-out, and their range included a bull bar, rear bar, side rails, and of course, a roof rack.
“By then, we had also started selling driving lights, as well as bringing more products into the business. That was a very key moment for ARB,” Matthew said.
Another defining moment for the business occurred in the late 1980s when they made the decision to start opening up international markets.
“We took our ARB air locker to SEMA and the interest it generated was phenomenal,” Matthew explained.

For those who do not know, ARB’s Air Locker is an air-operated locking differential that was initially designed by Tony Roberts. ARB purchased the design from Tony and used their vast engineering expertise to improve the product before taking it to America.
“The Air Locker was a huge hit at SEMA; the industry had never seen anything like it over there, and that was very much a product that got us into the overseas market and really established ARB’s brand in North America,” said Matthew.
In 1987 the company went public, which provided them with the capital to invest in growing their suspension offering, allowing them to acquire the iconic Old Man Emu brand and bring it under the ARB umbrella.
“We were already one of the largest Old Man Emu resellers when we purchased the company, so it was a great fit for the business.” Matthew explained.
“Once the purchase was finalised, we focused on growing distribution and the product range in order to complement our existing offering.”
Today, ARB products are sold in well over 100 countries, of which ARB-owned companies service many.
“Our international footprint is huge and continually growing,” said Matthew.
“Take North America, for example. We have got ARB-owned warehouses on both the East and West Coasts. We’ve also got ARB Europe and a similar setup in the Middle East and Thailand.”
More recently, ARB has acquired a canopy manufacturer in the United Kingdom.
“This latest acquisition gives us an excellent manufacturing base in the UK and will provide us with the opportunity to expand our European operations,” Matthew explained.
“We also purchased a similar business in New Zealand, which again increases our global manufacturing footprint.”

More recently, ARB has announced that from July 2021, ARB is now a Ford-licensed accessory. This is big news for an aftermarket company like ARB, as for the first time, ARB says aftermarket products will be backed by a full five-year factory warranty.
“What it means to consumers is that if you order a new Ford Ranger and specify you want a bull bar on the car, Ford will sell you an ARB bull bar. It will be supported with the factory-backed Ford warranty, so they’re giving the full five-year vehicle warranty on the ARB accessories,” described Matthew.
“And it’s not just bull bars. Ford customers will be able to choose from an extensive range of ARB products, including rear-bars, canopies, and suspension upgrades.
“This new arrangement with Ford has taken the ARB business to a new level, and it’s different from how they engage with all other vehicle manufacturers.
“In the past, customers could order ARB products having them dealer fitted prior to delivery, and included in their new car finance package, but the products weren’t backed by the factory warranty. ARB’s warranty backed them.
“This is a huge market shift for ARB and will change the way we engage with other vehicle manufacturers moving forward.”
Of course, as a significant player in the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Industry, ARB has been a long-time supporter of the AAAA.
“The AAAA provides the aftermarket industry with a unified voice,” said Matthew.
“Obviously, we have got competitors in the industry who are also members of the association, but at the end of the day, we all need a healthy aftermarket industry for us all to survive and ultimately thrive.
“The AAAA has done a fabulous job over the years in lobbying federal and state governments to make sure that when they make policies, that they hear every side of the story.
“We’ve always been a powerful advocate for the AAAA, and we’ll continue to support their endeavors for decades to come.”

To find out more about ARB, visit arb.com.au