US accolade a great confidence-builder, says Fusion chairman

Sir Peter Maire says a top award his latest technology venture has scooped in the United States is the honour he always wanted to win for Navman, the navigation device maker he sold in 2004, but never achieved.

Auckland-based Fusion Electronics has won the 2012 National Marine Electronics Association award in the US for its Fusion 700 marine stereo entertainment system.

"It means a lot," Maire said from Las Vegas, where he was attending a trade show. "It is the highest technology award that you can get in the marine industry in the technology area."

He said the award was typically won by one of the major navigation brands.


"So for a little company like Fusion it really is quite a big accolade," Maire said.

"It's a real confidence builder for our partners, customers and particularly our international sales team."

When Maire bought into Fusion, which he now chairs, about three years ago he diverted the company's focus away from home and car entertainment electronics.

"We had so many good designers from Navman working at Fusion so I knew we could use that horsepower to really drive up a robust business," Maire said.

The company now supplies its marine technology to more than 50 of the world's leading boat builders, including Regal, Hanse, Senseeker and Princess.

Maire said the Fusion 700 system, used on boats, had been in development for the best part of three years and was "a pretty remarkable piece of technology".

It had multi-zone capability - the equivalent of multi-room in a house - and apps had been developed that allowed users to control the system from a smartphone or iPad, Maire said.

"It's one of the most complex products I've ever developed, more complex even that what we did with Navman when we did car navigation."

Maire said it was the kind of innovation that made Navman a great company.

"With this single step, we've aligned with the world's major marine electronics companies like Garmin, Navico and Raymarine."

Navman, which Maire established in his garage in 1986, was sold to North American group Brunswick for $108 million.

Brunswick later broke up the navigation technology maker's divisions and sold them off separately.

Maire's disappointment about Navman's fate is well documented and last month he told the Business Herald that selling the company was the worst thing he ever did.

Fusion, which conducts its research and development in Auckland and makes its products in China, also produces technology for petrol stations.

Maire is estimated to be worth $65 million and is Fusion's main shareholder.

'China bashing'

America's accusations against Huawei are just an attempt at limiting the Chinese telecommunication giant's success, says Sir Peter Maire.

The Navman founder is a director of Rakon, which signed a technology partnership with Huawei in August and also does business with ZTE, another China-based telco.

The United States House Intelligence Committee has warned US firms not to do business with the two Chinese companies over fears of spying and corruption, and links to China's Government and military.

"I think what's going on here is China bashing," said Maire. "It is just a means to limit their [Huawei and ZTE's] success in the market."

It has been suggested that firms aligned with Huawei could face difficulties doing business in the US.

But Maire said he did not see any risk for Rakon.