Industry Profile - Michael & Wendy Hackett, Part II
Michael and Wendy Hackett from Ultimate Campers talk with On The Road's John Ford about their twenty years making one of Australia’s best respected off road camper trailers.
From the single factory, production spread across five locations before moving in 2007 to the purpose built facility still occupied today in Nth Moruya.
The original concept of the camper, which has come to be known as the X-Series, has remained constant with refinements along the way to accommodate special requests or modifications owners have tried themselves.
So good is the original design and on- going quality control that there have been minimal warranty issues and very few failures in the suspension or body, despite many trailers being put through hell. Even campers involved in fairly serious accidents can often be returned to the factory on their own wheels for repairs.
Changes have included a redesign of the entry steps to a new Australian Design Rule compliant, lightweight fibre-glass moulding that is easily deployed and stored. Provision for a portable toilet was made when a couple refused to buy an Ultimate unless it could be included.
Innovations have included the Safari Roof, the first double-skinned roof in the industry, which allows airflow over the top of the tent to minimize heat transfer and reduce condensation inside.
Gull wings in the nose cone have allowed easier access, and are available on premium models. As new products come along they have been included in the campers. Improvements in technology have brought better LED lights and more efficient refrigeration, while battery and solar technology have also come a long way in the last 20 years.
Right through Ultimate’s history, Michael and Wendy have endeavoured to use the best quality Australian products in their campers, while employing the best- trained workers to complete the task. Their company is one of the biggest employers in the area with a staff of over 70 including some 30 apprentices, for whom they have pioneered a trade training course in camper trailer building, which takes in all the various components of manufacture.
To celebrate twenty years in business the new X20 joins the existing XPLOR and base model XTRK for those who already have their own camping and cooking equipment. But the flagship of the Ultimate fleet is the Nautilus released after years of testing.
Not keen to rest on their reputation with the original camper Michael and Wendy, with typical enthusiasm, embarked on the Nautilus project to satisfy the demand of customers requesting more comfort and space than the X-Series could offer. Their aim was to produce the best camper trailer possible and it could be argued that the innovative monocoque result fulfils that goal.
Not only does it look extraordinary, it’s as tough and innovative as the original Ultimate but with a permanent bed and unique ensuite.
For Michael and Wendy their success has hinged on being fanatical about quality and listening to customers. Their web forum gives the 1700 X-Series and growing number of Nautilus owners plenty of opportunity to express themselves and share ideas and destinations with fellow Ultimate owners.
Ultimate musters have been a successful way of getting owners together in the past and plans are underway for a big twenty-year celebration on the NSW South Coast later this year. Michael and Wendy look forward to meeting with the many owners they have come to know over the years and the On The Road crew will be coming along to help mark the occasion.