BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!
Looking over the information on our website recently, I realised we may be selling ourselves short. Our 'about us' page is typically wishy-washy and reads much the same as everybody else's. Time to change it I think - because be honest… I’m not sure that’s really us.
There’s no industry on earth that doesn’t contain it’s fair share of rogues, charlatans, wide-boys, dodgy-geezers and downright-thieving-bastards. Even doctors and priests get themselves locked up from time to time. And the hovercraft industry is no different to any other. In some ways, the world of hovercraft is valuable turf for fraudsters and sharp-salesman. Why? Because many people who buy hovercraft have little knowledge or experience of them and are ‘babes-in-the-woods’ when it comes to being sold to.
Two quick examples – in Australia, there’s a guy selling hovercraft who’s notorious for his (shall we say) 'sharp' practices. Three or four years back, two excited future owners of his hovercraft met at a club meeting and were describing the hovercraft they’d ordered and paid a deposit for – they’d both visited the factory over the last few weeks and seen their hovercraft in manufacture. One told the other his was black… so was the other guys….it had a Yamaha engine… so did the other guys…it was on the line being built right now and was just having its screen fitted….they’d have it in two weeks….so would the other guy.
Yup, you guessed it – they'd both been told the hovercraft they’d seen was theirs so they’d both recently paid their balances. One (or both) of them was being robbed and I can only imagine the moment when they both realised that they may have been ‘had.’ We’ve since heard two separate accounts of buyers who have had to take legal action against the same company to get deposits back for hovercraft that simply never got built. And this clown’s still in business?
Come on Australia, grow some balls and close this idiot down!
In the UK is a company whose hovercraft truly suck. Truly, truly suck. They look great and their marketing is superb… but quite simply their hovercraft, (which is the same size as, but weighs twice as much as) the Flying Fish Marlin (itself not a lightweight racing craft by any means) cannot and does not work properly. Hovercraft aren’t magic, they can’t break the laws of physics and weight is the ultimate killer of a successful hovercraft. Yet they sell decent numbers of hovercraft - in fact they’re our closest competitor. Not one of their hovercraft have ever been seen at a UK cruising event (in fact, I’m told they ‘advise’ their customers to stay away!) as the community would probably fall around laughing if they did witness the noise/spray/20 mile range and slug-like performance from a 120bhp turbo engine(!) For ten years, we've been inviting them to come cruising, race us, offer craft up for an independent review…we're still waiting!
Ask yourself why!
Unfortunately there’s several other examples I could give such as the industry favourite, the ‘revolutionary new hovercraft’ idea – there’s one being marketed in Chicago, USA right now. Can’t work/won’t work (the only video of it in action is farcical – it’s on the end of a rope, creating a rainstorm in a pond!) but as it’s been styled to look vaguely like a Bugatti Veyron, and has no fan duct (ah, now, there’s a clue – see?) they’ve attracted a bundle of cash from naive investors and deposits from even-more-naïve buyers – the poor little lambs. But at least their $75,000.00 purchase will get them a nice looking pond ornament/garden sprinkler for the herons to shit on.
Even the government can get caught out - one UK Fire Service bought two Italian built, counterfeit copies of an US design… and guess what? They didn't work, are incredibly dangerous and basically languished in the shed for six years - making BBC headlines when it was announced that £150,000 of taxpayers' money was wasted on them! We could have sold them two equivalent hovercraft which do work for around a third of that…
So why the rant?
Well, quite simply, our business gets damaged by the charlatans. Hovercraft manufacturing is a small industry and the problem is, when people buy a substandard hovercraft from a dubious company, what we hear is along the lines of ‘small hovercraft don’t work – I tried them.’ And that’s not fair, because if you tried the new Land Rover out and it was a dog, you wouldn’t state that '4x4’s don’t work.' We as an industry, still have some why to go to establish ourselves and the conmen and idiots do so much damage to the legitimate companies struggling to improve the image of perfectly good craft.
So, how about that Flying Fish crowd? What do they do differently?
We get complaints occasionally – all businesses do. We’ve made silly mistakes that have been missed on the pre-delivery inspection and have been occasionally been a little late delivering. But, we do our best to sort any problems out quickly and efficiently and constantly improve what we do. We chase feedback, not avoid it, we build in reliability so that we don’t have to see your hovercraft again until its either service or upgrade time. We don’t lie to people (I can do without the grief to be honest!) and if we don’t think a hovercraft is the best vehicle for your application, we’ll tell you. We want happy customers, an easy life and we want you singing our praises and back for more hovercraft in the future.
We have trained dealers in several overseas countries – as well as the UK. We’re formative members of the Hovercraft Manufacturers Association (HMA.) We – together with Griffon Hoverworks – pretty much wrote the 2014 MCA Hovercraft Code of Practice. We don’t take deposits for hovercraft models that we haven’t built yet. We head up cruising events for the hovercraft club (UK club members have clocked up a total of some 2000 miles at club events and private cruises in 2014 already) which constantly improves the breed. We race hovercraft which gives us enormous amounts of information to find its way into production craft.
Above all else, we offer Money Back Guarantee – we can’t be fairer than that can we?
That’s us. That's what we do - that’s why we sell more hovercraft than any other company in the world. We aim to keep growing, both in terms of the company, and the hovercraft we manufacture.
So here’s our Top Ten Tips.
AVOIDING THE RIPOFF MERCHANTS!
1. If you don’t know anything about them, do your research into hovercraft in general. Be sure about what they should be able to do, whether a hovercraft is what you want, how they work and join your local club. Hovercrafting is still a small (but growing) community and you can gather some very useful information and feedback.
2. Do not pay for a hovercraft if you can’t actually see a real one exists – especially do NOT pay a deposit on a hovercraft which is only available in CGI form!
3. Is the supplier a member of the HMA? Hovercraft Club? Chamber of Commerce? BMI?
4. See it in action, preferably drive it, and ask to see its capabilities – as described – demonstrated. Drive more than one model before making any decisions.
5. Ask to see videos of other – identical - craft in varied conditions (water, land, mud, one up/two up etc) and look online on Youtube specifically for the make you’re considering – do you have plenty of confidence that WYSIWYG?
6. Does it come with a service manual, warranty, training and registration?
7. Does the manufacturer offer a Money Back Guarantee if the product doesn’t measure up to the sales hype?
8. Does the manufacturer have agents and dealers? This is a good sign that they are established and serious.
9. Can you obtain references from dealers/customers?
10. Ask to see photos of the build as it happens, or visit the factory. Small hovercraft should be easily completed within 4 weeks – any longer should make you nervous.
Good luck with your purchase – just be careful with your money!