Ag Innovators spoke to co-founder of Tomcar David Brim about the Tom Car's innovative approach to local manufacturing and sales.
We often hear that Australian manufacturing is dead but you are doing fine. What is your formula for success?
"The future of Australian manufacturing is having access to the supply chain, not owning it. Which is why Tomcar Australia outsources parts production to a close strategic partner and investor in our business, MTM Automotive. This is something it seems electrical and technology hardware companies (like Apple) realised a long time ago. It just seems that most legacy auto and farm equipment manufacturers still prefer to control the entire supply chain. Why? It doesn't make sense to us. "
Australian farmers are starting to embrace direct sales and ecommerce for both selling and purchasing goods. Can you tell us about your ecommerce model and why it works for you.
"It's strange that all we hear about is how the retail landscape is being disrupted - yet companies who sell big things - like cars or farm equipment feel as though it doesn’t apply to them. We know that having millions of dollars of metal on a corner car yard is not something which is future proof. So we have decided to avoid it altogether. Our sales model is direct selling and using the web. The internet doesn't care about the size of the thing it is selling. We also appoint Reps or 'Brand Ambassadors' clustered in key areas across Australia - these are our brand patrons helping people who seek them out - demand pull, rather than retail push. This system is proving very popular and it's great to be able to liaise directly with our customers, instead of having a dealer network barrier between us. We learn so much from our customers and are improving the Tomcar every week - but with things that are actually needed - and not dreamt up in a fancy design studio overseas somewhere by people who have never experience a farm or even seen a horse."
You guarantee to supply any part anywhere in Australia within 24 hours sounds bold. How do you do it?
"Our factory is based in Melbourne, VIC. Because we manufacture the entire vehicle here in Australia, we have every single part in our warehouse, so we promise to dispatch any part to our customer network within 24 hours of order. This may be anything from an engine to a tiny washer. We always have everything in stock - because the line needs every part to build vehicles.
There is a certain art to limiting what you make. We focus on delivering the best vehicle in our chosen segments of defence, agriculture and mining. This ensures we are fit for purpose. We find that it is what you actually leave out that makes the best design. We ensure we never suffer from 'feature creep'."
Many farmers have invested in solar power but they don't always have a use for the power all year round. Have you considered producing an electric Tomcar?
"We have an exciting electrification project underway for the Tomcar, but we really want to do more than just create an electric Tomcar. We'd love to be part of an eco-system that is primarily powered by solar energy and which will allow farmers and other rural users to charge their Tomcars using the solar panels on their house and also get top up power with a solar panel on the roof of the Tomcar. We are a while off, but are working with some great Aussie universities and engineers. Whatever we do will be different and be a big leap in the right direction - rather than to just simply just make an electric version of our existing product range."