They say when you set lofty goals for yourself, you “hitch your wagon to a star.”
A company based in Amarillo took that advice to heart — and is now reaping the benefits.
The company is called Intelli-Hitch. It earned New Product of the Year honors at the North American Trailer Dealers Association annual show in Nashville Sept. 10-13. It did that with 425 dealerships, 63 manufacturer brand exhibitors, and 116 showing vendors in attendance. And its margin of victory was unprecedented; 70 percent of the votes cast for New Product honors named the Intelli-Hitch.
Roger Hayes is chairman of the company, which manufactures the Intelli-Hitch out of a warehouse off South Coulter Street between Amarillo and Canyon.
He explained what makes the Intelli-Hitch so special. Using what the company calls Trailer Position Sensor technology, the hitch monitors the movement constantly between trailer and tow vehicle, then applies exact proportional braking when it needs to.
“It only makes sense to us,” Hayes said, “that the relationship between the vehicle and the trailer is the only place that the brakes can really be manipulated. Putting them under the dash is nice electronics, but what the Intelli-Hitch does, when it actually goes into the vehicle, the hitch is allowed to actually move in and out just by fractions of an inch. What it’s doing is measuring that relationship, that pressure that the trailer is actually putting on the vehicle.”
The result, according to the company, is a smoother and safer tow.
Kris Barnings, vice president of sales and marketing, said its microprocessing system “can think faster than any human being could. If you look at 70 miles per hour, with Intelli-Hitch versus a competitor, we’ll actually react and stop the towing package with 14,000 pounds 150 feet closer than any other competition. That’s a livestock load. That’s a life.”
Hayes said the new-age hitch took about three and a half years of hard work, with the usual setbacks an invention goes through, to get it from an idea to a product that does what it set out to do.
“The last eight months have been very intensive,” he said. “The proof of concept was difficult, and just understanding it’s never been done before, just understanding the approach took a while. Once we got that down, we just flew through it from that point.”
Winning the award at the NATDA show has resulted in benefits in all kinds of areas. “We’ve reaped the benefits of no sleep,” Hayes said. “You can put that one at the top of the list. But the popularity has ranged from us probing the local markets as we could reach them to national and international markets, and we got to meet all of those folks at that show. Frankly, we’re not quite even sure how far it’s reached yet.”
Hayes couldn’t put a number on exactly how much sales have grown since the first Intelli-Hitch went out his door in June, but “exponentially would be a good answer. It’s been out for just a number of weeks and it’s (already) gaining some ground.”
And it seems dealers have been anxious to carry the IH in their showrooms. Both men said most of the dealerships in Amarillo feature the Intelli-Hitch right now; a news release cites dealerships “from Alaska to Florida” carrying the IH.
Hayes said adding more dealerships to the IH website is part of the company’s strategy, but changing the way the product is distributed is not, partly to keep costs to consumers down.
“What we wanted to do was to offer an absolutely top-of-the-line product that the average guy can afford,” he said.
“So with that being said, we’ll be the distributor for this for some time to come. And as time goes on, we want to maintain those price levels for our customers.”
It also seems Intelli-Hitch will always call Amarillo home. Barnings said the intellectual resources being tapped here are part of that.
“You couldn’t get the engineering quality anywhere else,” Barnings said. “I don’t think any other company right now could effectively beat us.”