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Hero RG Sam Systime 2

MTA new owner of SAM and SYSTIME

IT’s an industry investment

MTA’s December purchase of New Zealand’s dominant automotive software businesses was a strategic move for the industry, the association and members, says President Dave Harris.

The purchase of SAM and Systime includes Synergy and the Orion and Autoline dealership management software systems.

“The SAM software is particularly well known to MTA members as it is widely used by mechanical workshops. Systime holds the Australasian distribution rights to Autoline and provides the sales and IT support needed for it. All the products are ripe for modernisation and growth,” says Dave Harris.

For MTA and the business’s founder Dave Hendl, it was all about the timing. He had turned 80 and was looking for a New Zealand buyer who could invest and build on his success. MTA meanwhile was scouting for a solid investment that would provide good returns and support member businesses.

Dave Harris says, “For us, it was a real bonus to be able to invest in a Kiwi business that supports our industry and our members. We can see a huge future for SAM and Systime in New Zealand and Australia and are committed to ongoing investment to improve and develop its products.” He says members will have the opportunity to get involved in the design and testing of new ideas for the various systems.

As for the financial investment MTA has made, Dave says the association has always put its funds into products that will generate a healthy return so subscription fees for members are kept as low as possible. “Like our shareholding in VTNZ, our ownership of SAM and Systime is an investment in our sector and its future.”

The MTA Board will appoint the directors to the company’s board, with day-to-day operations manged by current Chief Executive Dave Murdoch.

Growth planned

The company employs 50 staff and its strategic vision is to become the fastest growing and most respected automotive software company in Australasia.

Dave Murdoch says this vision is backed by MTA and he sees the business leveraging off the association’s links within the sector in New Zealand and Australia to open doors.

“It’s a competitive market and, although we have a large customer base in New Zealand, we still have plenty of room to grow. We have not yet marketed our products in Australia, although we do have some customers there, so I am optimistic about our potential for significant growth there and in other countries.”

In the short term, SAM is about to launch a new web-based version of its workshop software that can be used anywhere with internet. “We are in Beta testing with a small group of users at the moment and expect to start rolling it out gradually in the coming months. By taking SAM to the Cloud, we have the opportunity to provide new capabilities for our customers to help them run their businesses more efficiently and effectively.

Dave Murdoch says that while growth is important, providing better customer service and helping customers to get more value out of their products is also a major area of focus, with some exciting developments to be shared shortly.

The early days

For the first time since 1979, Dave Hendl says he’s not spending any time planning and anticipating his next moves in automotive IT. Instead, he’s working in his Manukau Peninsula vineyard creating what he hopes will be the next great vintage for his Awhitu Wines label.

He began his automotive software business when he was a business data consultant in the late 1970s. A dealership came to him looking for software to help manage their data and customer interface. When he discovered there was only one suitable automotive software product available, MIDAS, he saw an opportunity and became the New Zealand distributor. Ten years later he bought the New Zealand rights. This software was gradually replaced by Orion (which Dave’s company developed) and the international software system Autoline.

“We developed Orion for fleet management and small dealerships, including those selling marine power tools or machinery like forklifts. In combination with Autoline, our products are now installed in more dealerships in New Zealand than any other competing products.

There are international clients for Orion. “One is a Danish company by the name of OMNI with a United Nations contract to service military vehicles in many of the world’s hotspots. I remember in the mid 2000s we had a couple of staff in Afghanistan and we were doing training on our system in Dubai for people who would be using it in Libya, Liberia and places like that.” This company is still a client.

During the 1980s, his engineering team were kept busy building computer servers for large dealer customers and installing terminals so they could run the MIDAS software.

“A dealership could have between five and 50 terminals so we imported our own from Korea.”

In the late 1990s he purchased SAM, which had less than 200 customers at the time.

“I changed the customer support service to a monthly fee and we started doing really well.”

SAM and Systime have gone through a lot of changes in the past few decades and there are now just under 2,500 customers.

Dave Hendl is delighted to have MTA take ownership and take his business to the next level. “For me, it was important that SAM and Systime stay as a New Zealand entity. It is a strongly profitable business and will be a good investment for MTA.”