LINK ECU

WE CHAT TO ROB WI­LEY, MAR­KET­ING MAN­AGER FOR ONE OF THE GREAT­EST EX­PORTS TO COME OUT OF THE LO­CAL PER­FOR­MANCE MAR­KET, CHRISTCHURCH’S LINK ECU

NZ Performance Car - - Insider Industry -

NZPC: Hi Rob, please could you be­gin by giv­ing us a brief in­tro­duc­tion into Link ECU?

Rob: Kiwi firm Link En­gine Man­age­ment started 25 years ago as a few friends hang­ing out mak­ing their cars go faster and is now one of only five global brands in the en­gine-man­age­ment sec­tor. The Christchurch-based com­pany spe­cial­izes in the devel­op­ment, man­u­fac­ture, and dis­tri­bu­tion of en­gine-man­age­ment sys­tems that can un­leash the power of any en­gine. Link’s ECUs are renowned world­wide for be­ing easy to use, re­li­able, high qual­ity, and value for money.

So, it was a lit­tle self-taught back­yard start-up. When did the guys de­cide to form a com­pany and sell to the pub­lic?

Link be­came a busi­ness in 1991, when Philip Royds started to sell the en­gine-con­trol units he and his mates had been build­ing for them­selves.

Tell us a lit­tle about the first ECU that was brought to mar­ket.

Ini­tially, they were sell­ing ap­pli­ca­tion-spe­cific one-offs called ‘Link EMXs’, but, within a cou­ple of years, they had de­signed and built the G1.

How many staff did the com­pany em­ploy in the early days?

Link started as a com­pany of two peo­ple; one en­gi­neer; and one who did, well, ev­ery­thing else, and it was built into what we have to­day.

Com­par­ing that orig­i­nal G1 Link with the lat­est and great­est G4+, how does it stack up power-wise?

It’s like com­par­ing a VCR with Net­flix.

When did Link go in­ter­na­tional and to what coun­try first?

In the late ’90s, Link gained in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion by team­ing up with New Zealand rally leg­end Pos­sum Bourne to cre­ate the Pos­sum Link. Pos­sum’s win­ning per­for­mances helped grow Link’s busi­ness and rep­u­ta­tion around the world, and, with that, de­mand for our prod­ucts grew, es­pe­cially in Aus­tralia, which be­came Link’s first ex­port mar­ket.

How many dis­trib­u­tors do you now have world­wide and in how many coun­tries are you?

Link now has over 1000 dis­trib­u­tors spread across 43 coun­tries. Link’s largest mar­kets are New Zealand, Europe (in­clud­ing the UK), South East Asia, Aus­tralia, the Mid­dle East, the US, and Ja­pan. In mid 2015, Link es­tab­lished a sales of­fice in the UK in re­sponse to the grow­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in the main­land UK and Ire­land. Link’s busi­ness has dou­bled over the last two years, and this looks [set] to con­tinue as Link es­tab­lishes more sales of­fices around the world.

Are the prod­ucts still New Zealand built and de­vel­oped?

Link is fiercely Kiwi, and, as such, the prod­ucts are not only 100 per-cent de­vel­oped and man­u­fac­tured in New Zealand, but the ma­jor­ity of our sup­pli­ers are based here, too. We have a team of engi­neers in Christchurch who de­sign and mon­i­tor our hard­ware, firmware, and soft­ware. We also have a team in Christchurch who does some assem­bly and pack­ing, but most of that is done by our team in Auck­land. In Christchurch, we also have a sales team, tech­ni­cal-sup­port team, ser­vice team, and mar­ket­ing team, as well as our fi­nance and se­nior-man­age­ment teams.

How has the en­gine-man­age­ment mar­ket changed in the time Link has been trad­ing?

ECUs are be­com­ing more and more com­plex with the

in­tro­duc­tion of mul­ti­point in­jec­tion, closed-loop wide­band, VVT, com­plex CAN [con­troller-area-net­work] bus sys­tems, and GDI, etc. ECUs are re­quired to look after more and more func­tions. Once upon a time, all an ECU had to con­trol was fuel and spark and maybe a fan, now they con­trol a myr­iad of things, such as sen­sors that tell you when you have moved out of your lane or sen­sors that tell the en­gine to cut out when you have stopped at the lights. All this is cre­at­ing more of a chal­lenge for us, but we are Ki­wis, we like a chal­lenge.

Where does Link see the af­ter­mar­ket ECU mar­ket mov­ing in the next five years?

More and more sen­sors. Driver­less cars are not that far away (Christchurch air­port will be of­fer­ing driver­less buses very soon) and guess what drives the driver­less cars? An ECU. En­gine-wise, motors are mov­ing to GDI, which de­liv­ers more power while us­ing less fuel.

Which cham­pi­onships around the world can the prod­uct be found in?

WTAC [World Time At­tack Chal­lenge], D1NZ, Sil­ver Fern Rally, IDC, BDC [British Drift Cham­pi­onship], For­mula D[rift], Drift All­stars, ADGP [Aus­tralian Drift­ing Grand Prix] — pretty much any event glob­ally with pri­vate rac­ing teams will have Link ECUs in it. We have our roots in ral­ly­ing and have been with drift since day one. We are also found heav­ily in drag, cir­cuit rac­ing, hill climb, time at­tack, speed­way, and stock cars, and we are very heav­ily used in street cars. Look through all the cars in this mag­a­zine; I’d bet that 80 per cent of them are run­ning Link ECUs.

To be hon­est, it’s prob­a­bly closer to 90 per cent. What do you at­tribute this suc­cess to?

Link and the New Zealand car cul­ture have grown up to­gether. New Zealand’s per­for­mance cars have been as much a part of Link as we have been a part of the cars. That is why, no mat­ter how big we get glob­ally, it is im­por­tant for us to al­ways re­mem­ber our roots and to con­tinue to back the Kiwi car cul­ture, whether that is through sup­port­ing big events like D1NZ and Lead­foot, or grass­roots events like Flat Nats. When some­one like Jaron Olive­crona stuffs a V12 into an S14, that is what we mean when we say “ex­hil­a­ra­tion starts here” — and our mav­er­ick side just has to be a part of that. We like to think that the New Zealand car cul­ture trusts us, trusts that our prod­ucts are easy to use, value for money, and re­li­able.

Who are some of the driv­ers and teams Link works with world­wide, and do you use any of these teams as test beds for new prod­ucts?

Our dealer net­work is very deeply en­trenched in lo­cal motorsport scenes, and we work very closely with them to pro­vide what the mar­ket wants. The last three ECUs we re­leased have been great ex­am­ples of this. The Force GDI was built in con­junc­tion with our Malaysian tuners, Ken­neth Liang, Ricki Tong, and the Honda Malaysia Rac­ing Team; the Kuro­fune with one of our Ja­panese deal­ers, Kenji Uchida; the Mon­soon with one of our UK deal­ers, Robert Thorn­ton. We also have a group of our deal­ers that we use as a test bed for new prod­ucts. We know we can rely on these deal­ers to give our prod­ucts a rig­or­ous test in real-world ap­pli­ca­tions.

Is there any­one cur­rently run­ning se­cret test­ing for you in real-world ap­pli­ca­tions?

Now that would be telling.

When will we see a G5 ECU? Is that in the works?

Link G5 is un­der devel­op­ment, but we do not have a launch dead­line yet. That is all I can say at the mo­ment.

What sparked the change in logo this year?

Link changed from the black oval mid this year, after us­ing the oval since its in­cep­tion. The move was made to a logo that bet­ter rep­re­sented who we are. The old logo was nice, but it was a bit se­ri­ous and bor­ing. Although we are se­ri­ous about putting power and tech­nol­ogy in the hands of our driv­ers and teams, and push­ing the tech­nol­ogy as far we can, we are not old, se­ri­ous, and bor­ing.

Mid this year, we had a con­ver­sa­tion about who we are as a com­pany and what we do. It was de­cided that we make things ex­hil­a­rat­ing. This has been the case since Link’s in­cep­tion, when a few mates were tin­ker­ing with their en­gines and try­ing to make them go faster in what they called ‘the lab­o­ra­tory of speed’, where ex­hil­a­ra­tion was born. These guys were pi­o­neers, they were mav­er­icks, and our new logo was cho­sen to per­son­ify those speed-crazed ge­niuses.

Thanks for your time, Rob

Cheers, my plea­sure.

PHO­TOS: JONO MATLA

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