Hirosaka, Cavalieri and Ronnefalk are big names of RC but have you heard of Schmid? The Swiss marketer signs responsible for many different tasks related to the Neidhart brands (Team Orion, HB Racing, Peak Racing, nVision, HMX). We have met Lorenz and talked with him about their latest developments, digital transformation, his career and his latest hobby where he just launched a crowdfunding campaign.

Probably every RC enthusiast in the world knows at least one of the Neidhart brands (Team Orion, HB Racing, Peak Racing, nVision, HMX). Can you explain what you are responsible for?

First, I would like to say that our boss Philippe Neidhart built up an extremely strong team since the founding of the company in 1987, with many of the members working for the company for more than 20 years. It is thanks to this team that we can work efficiently and react quickly to market changes. All my colleagues are very passionate and talented, and everyone has many different responsibilities; so have I. For Team Orion, Peak Racing, Nvision and HMX I am in charge of the marketing and the graphic design such as logo design, packaging design, the catalog and website or product photography. I am also grateful that I had the chance to develop the touch screen chargers for the brand, including product and software design. For HB Racing marketing I am working with Kent Clausen in the US who has accompanied the brand since its beginning at HPI. For all the brands as well as the Neidhart distribution activities in Switzerland, I oversee the IT and web activities which have become more and more important, as well as legal aspects like trademark and product design protections.

Phew, that’s quite a lot. Do you guys have longer days in Switzerland?

No, certainly not. I would say it’s all about priorities. We cannot do more than one thing at the time and it’s important that we do the right thing and work efficiently. Thanks to the great team our communication ways are very short and we understand each other quickly. We try to minimize the number of meetings where often a lot of time is lost. We also try to go fast with new market trends and technologies such as new collaboration tools in order to improve efficiency. Or we decided very early to put a lot of efforts into the digital world such as internet and automatization.

Automatization and digitalization are big topics in all the markets. How do you think it affects the RC industry? 

It already transformed a lot the way we work. While orders came in by fax or phone before, today we can push a button and orders are automatically imported and packing slips printed, just to mention one example. Today our product database is linked with dozens of external systems and we can publish products on our different websites just with a click. Transformation certainly will go on and we must further improve the speed from designing a product to market it and bringing to end-consumers world-wide. Also, the smartphone applications have found a way to our market and will merge more and more with our products. As in our daily life they tend to become the centralized place for information and main consumer touchpoint. On the product side, we always want to use the latest technology as long as it brings a real advantage to the user and keeps the products performant, safe and affordable.

You also mentioned trademark and product design protection as part of your responsibilities. What do you do to protect your intellectual properties?

All our work is protected by international copyright laws and the brands are protected with trademark registrations. Special technologies like the CRF technology for our nitro engines, which features many improvements including a compressor-style effect, are protected with technical patents. For our unique product or software designs we use design protections to effectively protect our many hours of work and dedication against copies.  Of course, protection is one aspect, but in order to carry out the protection you need to take legal action against companies who don’t respect your rights. Luckily we had to take less actions against such copy-cats lately which is a good sign. At the end we prefer to invest into new technologies instead of “losing cash” for the existing products. But only like this we can make sure that our huge investments into innovation to bring forward the RC hobby are profitable. Just last month we won a case against a company copying our ESC case design.

The latest big deal of the Neidhart company was to add the HB Racing brand to its portfolio. Can you tell us more about it?

Yes, this was a very important deal for us and a big change. From one day to the other we became a manufacturer of competition cars. We are very proud of that and were also very happy to welcome HB Racing employees Torrance Deguzman and Kent Clausen in our team. They are both as passionate as we are and they are already perfectly integrated in our group. For sure it helped that both had already worked with us before, especially with our nitro specialist Adrien Bertin, electric „guru“ Oscar Jansen and of course Philippe (who hasn’t dealt with Philippe in this industry? ☺).

Another big move was the presentation of the new HMX brand. Please tell us more about HMX Technology.

Yes, this is another huge project of our company. We are working on it for more than a year. It is probably our biggest project ever in electric propulsion systems. HMX has been developed with the company “IRP“, who is the owner of “Hummingbird Motion Systems“, a patented electric motion technology. The hummingbird, which is also part of the logo, stands for very high and efficient movements. IRP had presented their products to us back in 2015 and what they showed to us on their dyno blew us away: more power and better efficiency than we have ever seen. It was so impressive that we decided to start a partnership with them to bring the technology to the RC market; this was the start of HMX. A big part of HMX is also the brand-new smartphone app which we had developed at the same time and which levers the way of setting up an ESC to a new level. It allows you to easily setup your ESC using an innovative and ergonomic screen design as well as save and manage your settings. We designed the technology in a way that it can also be integrated into other brands systems in case they want to make use of it.

What new products can we expect from your brands?

With HB Racing we have a very clear product strategy and a long list of new cars that will be presented. The next one will be the D817T, the truggy version based on the World Championship D817 design. We will also constantly improve our existing products to always keep them at the edge of technology. For Team Orion the HMX brushless systems are right now brought to market; also the sales of our brand new Ultimate Stock motors started very successfully. The next new products will be in the category of hobby batteries and modified motors, both in 540 and 690 size. For Nvision a brand new line of softcase batteries is in the making. We will give you more details once the products are ready and available world-wide.

At this year’s Nuremberg toy fair big industry names were missing. For decades it was obligatory for any brand to attend the fair: is the RC industry in a crisis?

The toy fair in Nuremberg just shows the transformation: while it was the key place to present new products, today every manufacturer can present his new developments every day to the world-wide audience via the internet. Also, the classic distribution system from manufacturer to hobby shop is changing, a development which started quite a few years ago and shows its results now. The digitalization and globalization leads to a much more direct distribution system which might end up, also in our industry, to become as direct as from manufacturer to end consumer. But it is not as simple as that, because a company, which was a hobby shop yesterday, is maybe already now a manufacturer with his own brands. Which means: the cards are mixed again and every market player needs to work hard to keep his place in the market.

Unfortunately, some companies missed these developments and in my opinion showed a high degree of mismanagement. I say “unfortunately” because this is a pity for our hobby, for employees who lost their jobs and for investors or mother companies who lost a lot of money.

Many RC hobbyists dream of working in the RC industry. How did you achieve that?

Yes, also for me it was a dream and I am very thankful thank it came true. As a boy I (and mainly my parents) couldn’t imagine that I could once live by working with “toy” cars. Today I can say that the toy or hobby industry works as any other industry – and it is huge (because: “who doesn’t like playing”?). So, as many of you, I started my hobby with a Tamiya car, then started racing at the age of 11, winning my first trophy at one of the first races in the local club. This triggered the RC and racing virus in me. I waited year for year to be allowed with 14 to work at the local hobby shop in my holidays. Of course I reinvested all my salaries again into the same hobby shop to buy new cars, tires and parts. My brain was only thinking about RC Cars and my sisters had to listen to long monologues explaining them every single part of an RC vehicle. Then I started combining this passion with my second passion which were the computers. In 1999 I created a website which some of you might know, it was rcworld.ch which is a German site getting also some international attention at that time – and it also caught the attention of Philippe Neidhart. One key experience was a race of the HPI Challenge in the French speaking part of Switzerland where I first met Philippe Neidhart. I won the race against all the local heros. Soon I could create the first website for the Neidhart company and became a proud team driver. After high school it was the easiest decision for me to leave my parents house and move to Geneva to work for Neidhart, soon working closely with my idols who I only knew from RC magazines before. It was really a dream which came true. If I try to explain to my wife today how it felt, I always say: it is as if you suddenly worked in Hollywood, together with Leonardo di Caprio and Christopher Bloom. ☺ In a summary I would say it needs passion, constant hard work and a bit of luck to achieve his dreams.

Are you still racing today or do you have other hobbies? 

Unfortunately, I am not racing anymore. In RC lately I used to “play” with drones as I can nicely fly in front of my apartment standing on the terrace. I am a proud father of 3 kids which keep me busy, and maybe soon I will accompany my son to his first races. I like music and movies a lot and art of any kind. And of course I still love computers and cars. With an ancestor of mine being involved in the real car industry in the thirties I have another big topic in my life which follows me for more than 10 years and combines many of my passions. Actually, this ancestor was part of the developments which ended up in the Volkswagen Beetle. The author of a book about this story became a friend of mine and together we bought an early predecessor of the beetle, which is the Standard Superior – and this car we want to restore now with the help of a crowdfunding project. The chassis and engine and many other parts are original and working, it has also been featured in Top Gear’s “James May’s cars that changed the world” exhibition! The body of the car has been modified with parts from the Trabant model. Our goal is to restore the body back to original. The model features a wooden body covered by artificial leather. Let me take the chance to share the link to our crowdfunding project with you, any support to bring the original shape and car back to life is much appreciated! You can get fantastic perks including tickets for the unveiling show of the car in the world-famous Louwman car museum in Holland or brand new model-cars from Autocult. Check out this link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/restoring-josef-ganz-s-1933-vw-beetle-forerunner/

Wow, that’s great. Thanks a lot for this interview!

Thanks to you! And thanks a lot to my boss Philippe and my family for the continuous support – and to the great team at Neidhart company with all the passonate employees and team drivers!