By Sarah Morgan
In the early ‘90s, some young Kiwi petrolheads invented a motor engine software that is fast becoming as synonymous with New Zealand’s motorsports heritage as household names like Bruce McLaren and Burt Munro. Christchurch company Link Engine Management now exports the hi-tech box, called an Engine Control Unit (ECU), to eager motorheads the world over. A member of the FernMark country of origin accreditation programme, Link uses the silver fern to symbolise the invention’s proud Kiwi roots.
Link’s hi-tech Engine Control Unit, in simple terms, transforms ordinary production vehicles into high-performance race cars.
The technology is a hit worldwide: with serious amateurs who soup-up their street cars; and with professionals, such as the leading teams in the US, British and China drift championships. In fact, they’re shipped to 1400 loyal customers in 65 countries, as far afield as Iceland and Guatemala – who, with every package they receive, are assured of the New Zealand-born quality when they see the FernMark stamped on the product.
POWER IN A BOX
What the fans are buying is software that controls every element of an engine, such as the power output, traction control and the gearbox. “Our systems can change gears within a hundredth of a second of the driver touching the lever,” says chief executive Andy Millard.
Like so many Kiwi motorheads, company founder Philip Royds and his mates started Link in a run-down workshop.
The emergence of fuel-injected cars in the 1980s meant messing around with engines was fast becoming an electronics speciality. In 1992 the university students developed a plug-in module that overrode the cars’ control unit – unlocking the potential for endless tinkering.
They started selling the alloy-encased, magic boxes to their mates but things really grew when Kiwi rally legend Possum Bourne hunted the boys down. In short order, PossumLink was born and the ECUs were adopted in rally circles.
Now, Link’s ECUs are inside the engines of drift cars, racing boats, jet skis, snow mobiles – even military drones – and shipped all over the world. Link has doubled sales in the last two years.
Being Kiwi has helped, says Andy.
When people hear we’re from New Zealand they say: ‘of course you’re good.’ This is the country of Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, Scott Dixon and Hayden Paddon. We’ve got heritage in motorsport.
The FernMark logo is representative of the company’s Kiwi roots and resonates with international buyers who value New Zealand’s reputation for quality.
This reputation is backed by numbers. Less than 0.25% of total production ever invoke warranty issues. Which is useful when you’re a mechanic in Madagascar or Trinidad. “Coming from a small place, we understand the need to be resilient. We have to be a lot more adaptable, a lot more accepting, a lot more willing to give something a crack, than our US or British competitors.”
Sometimes distance has its advantages.
FLYING THE SILVER FERN
Link Engine Management is one of more than 80 New Zealand businesses that have the FernMark as a symbol for an authentic New Zealand product. The FernMark License programme is the Government’s official ‘country of origin’ accreditation programme, designed to protect and promote New Zealand products to the world.