Whether or not you have a tracking unit fitted to your motorhome, the chances are, you’ve heard of Phantom trackers.
In October 2021, along with another local company, AMI, which deals with trackers for construction vehicles and plant, Phantom was acquired by the Moving Intelligence Group, based in the Netherlands, Germany, and now the UK.
It may have changed its name, but it still offers a range of popular motorhome security products.
And as with many things in the world of motorhome, how Phantom came about is an interesting story. I recently visited the new Moving Intelligence premises near Stockport, where I spoke to Sales Director and co-founder of Phantom, Steve Cherry.
The origins of Phantom
In 2001, Steve, his brother Simon and a friend who worked in the car finance marketplace were having a drink in a pub.
The company that the friend worked for financed people with poor credit ratings to buy cars, and the subject of defaulting on payments arose. In the course of the conversation, one of them said: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could track these, and if people don’t pay, get them back?”
At the time, they were unaware of any firm doing that. So the seed of the idea was sown.
Steve laughed when he told me that Simon “was always the crazy one, who would throw in a good job and go off with some new idea or other”, but he was the sensible one!
Simon did exactly that, and found a contact at Salford University who in turn had links with a company called Salford Electronics. Between them, a small tracking device was built for Simon and Steve, who then cannibalised a Nokia 5110 phone (remember those?) by removing the keypad and battery and inserting their printed circuit board and a GPS antenna.
This was then put into its own container and the appropriate electrical connections were attached, resulting in the production of the very first Phantom tracker.
At the time, Phantom only had that one customer, but they wanted to safeguard the future of the enterprise, so they began looking at making connections with motoring insurance companies.
To gain more credibility, they applied for Thatcham approval. Back then, rather than having a Thatcham rating, if a brand was successful, it would be added to Thatcham’s Q-List. Eventually, Phantom obtained its Q-List certificate.
Eventually, Phantom decided to move away from the car finance company arrangement, and instead began to concentrate its efforts on motorcycles and their insurance.
Just like motorcaravanners, motorbike owners tend to be extremely enthusiastic about their vehicles, and the Phantom tracker was very well received by them and by dealerships. The insurance companies, however, seemed to be taking a rather strange approach.
One insurance provider told Steve they’d offer a 3% premium reduction for a Phantom unit fitted to a motorcycle, whereas they offered 10% for an alarm and 5% for a floor anchor.
Their view was that a tracker wouldn’t stop a motorbike being stolen. Steve’s response was, “No, but you will get some of them back!”
At the time, the Yamaha R1 was the most stolen motorcycle in the UK. Steve asked, “How many of them have alarms fitted?”
“All of them,” was the reply. “Well, that’s not stopping them being stolen, is it?” said Steve.
At the time, despite a rather staggering 1000 or more motorcycles being stolen every week, Steve said, they just couldn’t get the insurance companies interested.
Then in 2003, Steve happened to pick up a leaflet at an event, listing companies offering a discount for having a tracking unit fitted – one of them being the well-known caravan and motorhome insurance provider Caravan Guard.
Then it was simply a matter of making a few telephone calls, and the product was sold.
Caravan Guard offered a discount to customers who had a Phantom tracker fitted, and they also became mandatory on high-value motorhomes. Brownhills Motorhomes, in Nottinghamshire, was the first dealer to retrofit Phantom trackers.
Not long after, a Mk2 version of the tracker was launched. This could link into the vehicle’s alarm system; when activated, the control room would receive a notification and could then quickly contact the owner to inform them that the vehicle alarm had been triggered.
Customers themselves then became a free advertisement for Phantom, in so much as they would say things like, “That was Phantom saying my alarm’s going off on the motorhome.”
In the early days, leisure vehicle manufacturers kept Phantom at arm’s length, but in 2009/10, Lunar started factory-fitting the tracker units as standard on its Clubman and Delta caravans.
Over the years, Phantom has partnered with Italian company Gemini to produce its own alarm system, which can be factory-fitted, rather than having to plug into a third-party system.
Phantom alarm systems are now being fitted as standard to Coachman caravans, with the tracker being an option, and the company has worked with the luxury leisure vehicle manufacturer and electronics specialists BCA (which makes the wiring looms for Coachman, including specific alarm and tracker power supplies).
Coachman places the alarm units where they will be most difficult to access by thieves, and continually changes where the tracking devices are installed.
Steve told me that although Coachman models aren’t stolen that often, every one that has had a tracker fitted has been retrieved. Quite a claim.
From Phantom’s beginnings with the two brothers, Moving Intelligence (UK) now employs 23 staff in the main office, with a further eight call centre staff. Steve believes they might be the only tracking company running their own dedicated call centre.
In the UK, there are 23,000 units currently being monitored, of which about 16,000 are installed in motorhomes and caravans.
Moving Intelligence as a group, meanwhile, has more than 180,000 vehicles being tracked across Europe.
One thing I like is the mobile phone app that’s been developed for the tracking units. Not only does this give the status and location of your motorhome, it also indicates the condition of the leisure battery and the mileage history, and allows you to arm and disarm the alarm system. It includes 24/7 monitoring, too.
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