Racetech banks on US sales acceleration

Wellington racing-car seat-maker Racetech Manufacturing is setting up a subsidiary in North Carolina to manage distribution in the United States, where business grew 25 per cent last year.

When its previous distribution deal with an external company recently ended, it decided taking control in-house made financial sense.

Former rally champion and owner of the company David Black said it decided to establish a warehouse and sales facility in North Carolina because of its proximity to the bulk of the American racing population.

Racetech products, including what he calls "arguably . . . the best racing seat in the world", had been in the American market for 12 years already. In the last year its sales in the United States grew by a quarter.

Racetech USA sales manager Brian Oleshak said the younger generation of drivers were lifting sales.

"As we're getting more of a younger demographic buyer for Racetech brand seats I think they are more mindful of safety. The young guys are a little bit more receptive to taking a look at higher- quality safety equipment that is going to help them walk away from a severe impact.

"We're making some inroads with more club racers that are generally semi-pro or financially stable enough to buy high-end safety equipment. We command a premium price because we are a premium brand."

The distinguishing feature of its race seats is a back mount that improves lateral strength and has limited flex during impact. The lack of flex in the shoulder area is said to reduce driver fatigue.

The race seats, which have Federation Internationale De L'Automobile approval, are used widely in V8 Supercar vehicles in Australia and European racecars. The seats retail for several thousand dollars.

It has been designing and manufacturing racecar seats since 1992 and Black bought the firm in 1998. Growth accelerated in 2001 when it signed a deal to supply Dodge Viper seats after a New Zealand Trade & Enterprise show. Fairfax NZ

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