SuperCool Celebrates 40 Years

SuperCool is celebrating a special milestone: we’ve been in business for 40 years!

Over the coming months, we’re sharing some clippings and photos from our archives on social media, and reflecting on four decades of service to the HVACR industry. 

Let’s go back to where it all started. 

The early days

“My workshop ambitions started with trying to follow in my Dad’s footsteps,” says Mark Mitchell.

“As one of the first Nissan dealers in Australia, he sold the first Bluebird in 1959, and became a Toyota dealer in 1963 with a visit from Mr Toyota himself.”

In 1982, SuperCool Car Airconditioning hung out its shingle in High Street, Southport. Business was soon booming and just one year later, the workshop moved to bigger and better premises. A strong focus on Unicla helped SuperCool become one of the biggest dealers in the country, with Mark and his team of technicians burning the midnight oil to get through the workload.

1987 saw a new workshop with an innovative new reticulated evacuation and charging system for each work bay, something that was previously unseen in Australia.

This allowed SuperCool to become the first auto workshop in the country to recover and recycle R12, for both commercial efficiency and environmental responsibility – a move that reflected the growing awareness of CFCs and ozone layer depletion across the world.

“In the 80s, the ozone layer problem was becoming well known, so we reacted quickly. I’m proud of the fact that we ‘thought globally and acted locally’, setting the scene for what would be our business focus over the coming decades.”

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New refrigerants and more workshops

The first vehicle to ever run on R134a in Australia was commissioned by SuperCool in 1991. The gas and POE oil were supplied by ICI for a Ford XF Falcon, and just weeks later we installed two Unicla systems operating with R134a and a new PAG oil supplied by Castrol.

We were onto something big, and the 90s saw workshops built at Slacks Creek, Mermaid Beach, Nerang and Tweed Heads. Three of these became franchises, headed up by the managers who all previously worked at the Southport workshop.

In the late 80s and early 90s, SuperCool quickly became the go-to place for all kinds of aftermarket accessories. Mark explains how SuperCool’s skilled team helped the business grow throughout South East Queensland.

“Good air conditioning installers are very talented and can install just about anything into a vehicle. We had a great team of them, so car dealers started sending us all kinds of work that wasn’t related to air conditioning. We became a significant vehicle pre-delivery operation, offering car alarms, sunroofs, central locking, and body kits. There was so much going on that we built a separate workshop for this in Rawlins St Southport.”

“Window tinting, paint and interior protection and rustproofing soon followed, and SuperCool pioneered the idea of having our own ‘aftermarket’ sales staff in dealerships in ’92. We held this ground between 1992 and 2000 until car dealerships went in house, as was the national trend,” adds Mark. 

We also managed to become the local car security experts: if you’re of a certain vintage, you might remember SuperCool’s frequent radio appearances in the 90s. Mark reveals how this came about:

“We became a significant pioneer and player in car security. We sponsored the ‘stolen vehicle report’ every morning on 4MMM to highlight the number of vehicles stolen every day on the Gold Coast. I did a deal with the State Commissioner for Police to fax it to us every morning, and we would fax it on to the radio station. The police loved us! I also appeared on A Current Affair with Australia’s most notorious car thief, ‘Mick’. It was filmed in prison with a challenge for him to break into and start a vehicle in which we had installed an alarm. He failed – we won. You can’t buy that kind of PR!”

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Going global in the 90s

The late 90s saw a massive change of direction for SuperCool. After becoming the national distributor of Unicla in 1997, we sold all our workshops between 1998 and 2001 and sold the parts distribution operation to Ashdown Ingram in 2002, minus a few imported products.

SuperCool concentrated on Unicla and Refrigeration Technologies distribution in Australia and NZ, and we supported the Japanese factory to reach global markets in the early to mid 2000s. 

The strong relationships built between our business and Unicla led to SuperCool and IAEL in Hong Kong purchasing Unicla after Mr Nobata passed away in 2005. We were now part owners of Unicla, and continued to nurture this business whilst we built additional revenue streams focused on R&D and cooling technology.

We also formed a joint venture with Euroscan and sold the first cold chain temperature monitoring systems into Australia in 2007. Significant contracts were formed with major fast-food suppliers and transporters in the Asia Pacific region.

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The food waste and cold chain era

This increased involvement with the refrigerated transport industry led us to become acutely aware of the global food waste crisis. We committed to doing whatever possible to raise awareness and create action via our own SuperCool Food Wastage Initiative, and the development of the SuperSense SMARTprobe product simulation probe. 

In 2019 we formed SuperSchool as a partner to SuperTest, to explore the potential for blending testing, research, engineering, and product development into a training offering. 

This training arm was later branded SuperSchool and continuous to deliver critical training to the industry, whilst SuperTest has been instrumental in creating efficiency gains for some of Australia’s biggest cold chain players 

2022 Milestones: the eDrive and our new Thermal Test Chamber

“The Unicla eDrive is our latest achievement, and we’re releasing the eDrive to market as we speak, under restrictions from the electronics supply chain crisis which we hope will ease in 2023,” notes Mark. 

“This year we have also completed SuperTest Thermal Chamber No 6, providing a new capability to test refrigerated display cabinets for energy efficiency to ISO standards.”

“Advanced robotic and data acquisition techniques have been used to achieve very precise results. This chamber is the only one of its type in Australia and we’re welcoming the industry and the wider public to contact us about our energy efficiency testing capabilities,” adds Mark.

So what's next for SuperCool?

“For the past forty years we’ve done a pretty good job at being diverse and flexible within a single industry,” says Mark. 

“Refrigeration and air conditioning is a diverse field, and we have answered this call by developing different products and services to meet demands from various types of customers. You can call this spreading the risk, product expansion or simply a means of chasing sales, but to us it has been very much about research, development and engineering of innovative products and solutions.”

Mark notes that the current global economic landscape presents considerable challenges to businesses considering new product development and significant innovations.

“More than once throughout this time we have achieved a few firsts in our industry that we’re very proud of. But perhaps in the near future, we may not be able to continue this ideal with the same gusto as we did in the past.”

“The global pressures on small independent suppliers such as us will be great. The consequences of Covid, the global electronics crisis and the meteoric price rise in freight and logistics are enough on their own to ruin any reasonable project and its planning,” explains Mark. 

“Vehicle and machinery manufacturers and HVAC system integrators are feeling the worst effects of this now, and will continue to do so at least until 2024.”

Despite this challenging business environment, Mark remains optimistic about the ongoing importance of good support and strengthening Supercool’s existing suite of products and services. 

“While these global pressures are impacting some of our capabilities, SuperCool is always here to assist the market, and we believe the challenge will be to stay very focused on what we already have. The brand diversity in the SuperCool Group will need to be offered to customers in a very clear and concise way. It will be more about improvement and capitalisation, especially for the key products under development for the past five years, to ensure the market clearly understands who we are and what we have to offer.”

The entire team at SuperCool would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to all the friends, colleagues, customers and suppliers we've met throughout our 40 years in business.

Unicla Australia Team In 2020

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