Even with the number of different models available to van and ute buyers, there are still times when a showroom spec vehicle doesn’t quite fit the bill.
With manufacturers building for versatility, there are often sacrifices made in the ideal spec for a particular job, in favour of broader market appeal. For a lot of buyers near enough is good enough, but for many, the want or need for improved safety is paramount.
While most utes and vans on the market are now available with a host of safety features, the danger that sits behind the driver is often overlooked. In a collision, even the smallest object can become a projectile and cause injuries to the occupants of the vehicle.
AutoSafe Industries manufactures a range of products designed to increase safety levels for van and ute drivers and their passengers. Its range of load guards, window guards, cargo nets and vapour protection partitions offer an extra level of protection to those in front of the load, should the worst occur. As Ron Grace, owner and Managing Director of AutoSafe explained, “We manufacture and wholesale motor vehicle occupant protection products. Our mission statement is to provide world class occupant protection products for preservation of life”.
While the AutoSafe name may be new to many of us, the company has been producing after-market safety products since 1974, when Ron’s father bought the business. At that time, the company was producing load barriers, along with other items including roof racks and bullbars for cars and four-wheel drives. In 1991 the company was split, with Ron taking over the load barrier and partition aspects, while his brother has concentrated on the roof rack and bullbar side of the business, now known as Tradesman Roof Racks. The two businesses now operate as separate entities, but still work closely together in providing an all-round solution to customer requirements.
AutoSafe operates out of a purpose-built, 1200 sqm factory in Boronia, east of Melbourne. All of its x products are designed and manufactured there, with a team of fifteen employees working to produce them from raw materials. From the bending of the frames, to laser cutting and even powder coating, it’s all done on site to ensure the best quality product for their customers. Along with the quality factor, local manufacturing also provides benefits in terms of delivery time. “Our main strength is our service” said Ron. “We can offer an industry leading one to three day turn around (from ordering to despatch)”.
With so many different commercial vans, utes and wagons on the market, it’s no surprise to learn that the AutoSafe catalogue contains over 300 different designs.
“What we find is there are a lot of different shapes and sizes” Ron said, “And when car manufacturing ceases in Australia we expect more.” Not that this will be a problem, as AutoSafe will design and manufacture products to fit.
The cargo barrier range covers all station wagons, four-wheel drives and commercial vans, with individual designs to fit various models. As with all AutoSafe designs, these are designed to fit easily, using existing mounting points, and can be installed in as little as 30 minutes. With safety as a priority, they are also designed to work around existing safety features, such as side airbags. There are also variants that can be fitted mid-ship on larger vans to create two separate load compartments, with one accessed through the rear door(s) and the other through the side door(s). Cargo barriers are also available in a walk through design, or with a sliding door fitted, to allow easy access from the cab to the load area.
The anti-vapour partitions, as the name suggests, are designed to prevent any harmful dust or fumes in the load area from entering the cab. This is especially important in roles where petrochemicals or paint are carried, but just as useful on jobs where dirty equipment may be carried. They also provide insulation from noise and heat, and allow the temperature in the cab to be better managed without the need to heat or cool the entire van. A small window in the partition allows for use of the centre mounted rear-vision mirror, and an easy way to check the load from the cabin while stationery. As with all AutoSafe products, anti-vapour partitions are tested for impact and puncture resistance, and exceed Australian standards for occupant protection.
Window guards are designed with two purposes in mind- to keep the load inside the van contained in an accident, and to keep thieves out. Designed to suit many individual models, these are also load tested and mount easily to existing mounting points. They are available for side and rear windows, as well as those windows in manufacturer-fitted bulkheads.
Another AutoSafe product, Loadguard, is designed to protect the rear window of a ute, and is available as either a tubular frame and mesh or laser cut from a single sheet of steel. Loadguard can be fitted to an existing bulkhead or, for those with sports bars, attached to the sports bar without any need for drilling. This protects occupants from a load that might come through the rear window, including smaller objects that may fit through many standard bulkheads.
As mentioned previously, all AutoSafe products go through a strict testing program, with independent engineers testing them for impact and puncture resistance. All products come with a full four-year warranty which, as Ron pointed out, is the usual first life cycle of a new commercial van.
While most products can be removed and refitted, the constant changing of vehicle designs, and the fact that most fitments form part of a lease agreement, mean that most AutoSafe products remain with the vehicle once sold. For those who operate older vehicles and would like to have products fitted, there’s a fair chance that AutoSafe will have something to suit their needs, having been in the industry for a long time.
While the team at AutoSafe takes care of the design and manufacture, it also supports an extensive network of over 250 agents across Australia and New Zealand that sell and install its products. While the company may be involved in large fleet price negotiations, the distributors usually take care of pricing, and installation work is always fed out to distributors as they are considered a vital part of the AutoSafe business.
Forty years in the business has given the company a great understanding of what its customers want and need, and the family tradition looks set to continue. Ron has plans to step back from the business, with sons Max and Sam stepping up in their individual roles in the business.
Working alongside Max and Sam will be Business Development Manager, Mark Sangster, who himself has over 30 years of experience in the automotive accessories industry. With a long history in the industry, and plenty of hard earned experience to draw on, AutoSafe have a lot to offer to operators that see safety as a priority. In the current era of OH and S implications, that should be the vast majority. This bodes well for the future of the company, and the future of Australian manufacturing.