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Wired for sound

open this image in new window: Fusion Entertainment

Top-end marine audio systems maker Fusion is set for growth as it takes its skills on the road.

At a glance

  • Auckland-based Fusion Entertainment designs and engineers premium entertainment systems for boats.

  • In the last four years it has doubled its research and development team and increased sales by two-thirds.

  • It is set to grow again by expanding into the recreational vehicle market, and estimates it could double current revenue.

  • Its purchase by US navigation device maker Garmin in 2014 came at a crucial time, allowing it to concentrate on developing world-class products.

Marine entertainment systems company Fusion has more than doubled its research and development team in four years and is now expanding into the global recreational vehicle (RV) market.

Sales of the Auckland-based firm’s premium audio products for boats have increased by two-thirds in the same period.

The business is now set to grow again, this time moving into entertainment systems for the significant European and American RV sector.

Managing Director Chris Baird says the potential is huge with Fusion looking to double its current revenue.

“If we keep going as we are we will be able to employ around 100 people in New Zealand – that’s up from 30-odd in 2014,” he says.

Fusion Entertainment Managing Director Chris Baird
Fusion Entertainment Managing Director Chris Baird

Crucial investment

The Fusion name is known internationally for top-end marine audio gear, such as stereo units, speakers, subwoofers and amplifiers.

Previously owned by Navman founder Sir Peter Maire, Fusion Entertainment was bought by US navigation device maker Garmin in 2014.

This investment came at a crucial time for the company.

Its products were in hot demand and it needed funds for expansion. However, it had been unable to find backing in New Zealand. It got to the point where its only option was to sell, Chris says.

Peter Maire had invested in the research and development side of the business, and support from Callaghan Innovation helped Fusion design and engineer world-class products. “This allowed us to grow the business, and ultimately attract an investor.”

Even though it is no longer New Zealand-owned the business makes a significant contribution to the local economy and will remain based here, Chris says.

“We’ve doubled our engineering side, tripled our marketing function, and are using a lot of third party suppliers and contractors.

“There’s a whole range of other investment that happens inside a country that’s not just about the profit level,” he says.

Fusion Entertainment UD755
Fusion Entertainment UD755

Hitting the road

Fusion’s range used to include car audio products, but it exited that market in 2016 to focus on entertainment systems for boats.

The marine side of the business is going from strength to strength. Fusion has just secured a three-year contract with the second-biggest boat builder in the world which will bring thousands of boats to the table, Chris says.

Meanwhile it is collaborating with Garmin on developing products for RVs which represent a huge sunrise market, Chris says.

Fusion had been dipping its toe into the RV market before Garmin came along and had used Australia as a test case. “We knew we could do it there, but we really needed the right type of products to take on the European and American markets.”

Having Garmin as a parent allows Fusion funding for growth, plus access to engineering resources and support services such as legal. “It enables us to concentrate on the R&D and design,” Chris says.

Callaghan Innovation has been with Fusion Entertainment along its journey and continues to assist the company through a R&D Growth Grant and student grants, says Phil Anderson, Customer Manager Manufacturing and Niche.

“The ongoing expansion of Fusion’s Auckland R&D facility creates not only jobs, but builds significant expertise and capacity in the Kiwi skills base,” he says.

Updated: 31 May 2018