PROSPER MAGAZINE: DIGITAL EDITION
ACCELERATING INTO NEW MARKETS - SIRUS AUTOMOTIVE GOES GLOBAL
As the UK negotiates new global trade deals with the USA, we talk to Black Country-based Sirus Automotive about their international trade journey.
Easy access to transport is something we often take for granted.
But, to address the needs faced by many disabled drivers, engineer Simon Pearson, established Sirus Automotive in 2004.
The Wednesbury based company was founded with a vision to revolutionise the wheelchair accessible vehicle industry giving wheelchair users life-changing autonomy.
With a background in vehicle conversions, Simon understood how limited access to transport can have a potentially isolating impact on the lives of disabled people. Recognising that there was a gap in the market for innovative vehicle conversions and adaptations that establish parity between wheelchairs users and non-users, his goal was to enable wheelchair users to drive from their wheelchair or travel in the front as a passenger.
“The first conversion was the affordable and compact Drive Wheelchair Renault Kangoo, launched with great success,” Simon told Prosper.
“In 2006, we received full accreditation on the Motability Scheme, enabling wheelchair users to purchase our vehicles through the Motability Contract Hire Scheme, with grants available from Motability the charity.
“Our mission, to deliver high-quality, pioneering products with unmatched aftersales service, was recognised in 2009 when we were awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Product Innovation.”
Sirus now offers a range of drive from wheelchair, internal transfer and upfront passenger vehicle conversions, as well as providing a service to adapt standard cars.
So, how has the support from the Department for International Trade enabled them to take their vision global?
“The journey to export has not been entirely smooth,” said Simon, “As transporting and distributing converted vehicles across the world is no easy feat. It was back in 2011 when we first realised there was an opportunity to take our vision to new markets. With the assistance of the Department for International Trade (DIT), we set up relationships with distributors in France and Germany. Although we had successful sales, our capacity to expand export sales was hindered by individual market restraints such as registrative issues.”
In 2019, the company decided to refocus its export strategy and allocate more resources. After getting back in touch with the DIT, they were able to access funding through their International Trade Adviser, Jayne Shields, based in the Black Country Chamber of Commerce. The funding has assisted them in attending two separate exhibitions: one, Rehab, focused on the German market and another, Rehacare, aimed at the wider European market.
Sirus signed a new distributor deal with German-based European distributor, Zawatzky Mobility, whom they had a pre-existing relationship with. When drawing up the contract, they met with a specialist adviser who provided advice on what to include in the agreement. “That was very useful,” Simon told Prosper. “It’s worked well for us to have our distributor as our single point of contact because he has a network of dealers all over Europe.”
Sirus has also benefitted from a meeting with a one-on-one with Digital Trade Adviser. Part of the free specialist services on offer through the DIT, the adviser completed an audit of the company’s entire digital presence, including their site, and provided detailed recommendations on changes that would significantly boost their SEO rankings and online visibility.
So, going forward? “We plan to target France, Italy, have interest from the Nordics and have recently appointed a distributor in New Zealand, where we have seen positive interest and healthy sales so far,” Simon said.
“Innovation is key to our success; we are known as pioneers within the industry and expect our overseas sales, which are currently in the region of £250,000, to be significantly boosted now we’ve achieved European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval on our latest product, the Ford Grand Tourneo Connect. This innovative conversion is designed to enable a wheelchair user to drive or travel upfront as a passenger.”
Sirus now intend to maintain their fresh approach to accessibility solutions, reproducing the transformative effects of their products on wheelchair users within new markets. Having recently launched their 13th vehicle conversion, they are continually improving their offering and developing ground-breaking technology to improve the quality of life for thousands of disabled people.
For Sirus, the focus of their upfront conversions is to provide freedom, independence and inclusion.
When asked what his advice would be to any business considering export, Simon said, “Be prepared to put the time in. It’s not always easy and there are lots of things you need to consider but that’s where reaching out to people like Jayne is so useful. The DIT exists to support businesses like ours - take advantage of the advice and services on offer and you’ll soon be reaping the rewards.”
To get in touch with one of our advisers in the Black Country and receive tailored support from our export experts, call Jayne Shields, Marion Doherty, Heather Crocker or Gerald La Touche on 0330 024 0820.