An Auckland company is going global with a product designed to save lives when cars crash into off-road hazards.

The Raptor is a plastic shield for trees and power poles that can protect vehicles travelling in either direction on a road.

Designed and manufactured by North Shore firm Armorflex, it is targeted at local councils and roading authorities, and has been sold in the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada.

It was installed for the first time in this country in Papakura last month.

"We have a network of distributors around the world now and we provide them with the technical backup and marketing materials that go with it," said Armorflex managing director Dallas James, who designed the Raptor.

But although around 30 Raptors had been sold overseas, the local market had proved more difficult to crack.

Sue Walker, marketing director of Armorflex's local distributor CSP Pacific, said that after a year on the market, only two Raptors had been sold here - to Papakura District Council and Dunedin City Council.

"A lot of councils' budgets have been quite constrained in the last financial year," Walker said.

The Raptor has four cartridges that act like airbags and absorb vehicle impact, as well as an outer shell of blended plastic that does not split or crack when hit by a car. James said he was not aware of similar products.

Armorflex specialises in guardrails and crash cushions and the Raptor idea grew from that.

Many road deaths followed collisions with a tree or pole, James said, and tests had shown that a passenger compartment crush reduced from 500mm, when hitting an unwrapped pole, to 10mm when hitting a pole sheathed with a Raptor.

At $4300 to $4900 apiece, James said, the product was affordable when compared with "full-blown crash cushions" that could cost between $25,000 and $30,000.