WE CAN all dream – and dream big. But, making that oversized dream a reality ain’t always easy. Thankfully, for the thousands of off-roaders around Oz, Kalen Ziflian and the team behind Club 4X4 Insurance have made their particular dream – offering comprehensive vehicle insurance for off-roaders – very real.
With a bunch of keen 4x4 enthusiasts who live and breathe the 4x4 lifestyle and, most importantly, understand what that means in terms of vehicles and their owners, Club 4x4 has managed to differentiate itself from the myriad vehicle insurance companies tending their wares. It’s unsurprising, then, that the idea grew from a few yarns around a campfire.
“THE IDEA had been floating around in one of the shareholders’ head for some time, but it kicked off officially in October 2015, so just on three years ago,” says Kalen.
“The idea behind it was that, looking at the insurance landscape, there was pretty much coverage for most different motoring enthusiasts – whether it was performance, classic cars, age groups – but there was no-one that did a direct to market offering for 4WD enthusiasts.”
Selling a product you know intimately from a consumer viewpoint is a real boon for Club 4x4 and also for clients; it means there’s an understanding on both sides of the fence when it comes to the variables associated with what you are, or are not, covered for, you get a bit of leeway from those who know the scene. Kalen refers to it as ‘reasonability’.
“Most insurers who see something that is illegal will shut you down pretty quick, whether it be that they see it when they take the policy on or, more devastatingly, when it is at the point of claim,” he says.
“We take a position of reasonability on this because we understand the disparity in laws from state to state. So if you have the vehicle on 35s and a lift, yes, you are obviously way over in terms of what your total increased height is allowed to be. But if you, say, side swipe a pole in a carpark, you’re not going to have an issue because that (modification) couldn’t have contributed to that incident. If you roll the same vehicle however, the increased centre of gravity would have certainly been a contributing factor in that incident – that’s where you will have issues with lodging that claim.”
That reasonability stems from Club 4x4’s knowledge of the difficulty of dealing with different state regulations and rules around what is legal/what is not in regards to vehicle mods – something Kalen has intimate knowledge of, thanks to being on the board of the 4WD Council.
WITH A name such as Club 4x4 it’s not hard to see what Kalen and the team’s ethos is; being involved in the four-wheel drive scene – all the way from the grassroots up – is what has attributed to the company’s success.
Impressively, this also means there’s no holier-than-thou attitude from Club 4x4 when it comes to educating and interacting with its clients; they are happy to get down in the dirt with their clients, regardless of the questions, with Kalen often spending after-hours time in the digital space, addressing any issues related to the company’s policies.
“A lot of the changes we’ve driven in the product have stemmed from market feedback that was often found on forums and social pages; it’s about listening and giving people the product they want,” he reckons.
“People are very passionate in this space and sometimes it means you are dealing with someone who is complaining about something and that can be a bit tough. But ultimately I have found that those complaints lead to feedback that then leads to the opportunity to do different things, so any interaction is good interaction.”
Being a part of the off-road clan brings with it extensive knowledge of how and where owners’ vehicles are used – and the same goes for camper-trailers and caravans. Kalen cites the fact Club 4x4’s tow-related insurance eliminates any reference to gazetted and non-gazetted roads – a big difference to mainstream insurers.
The community-fostering feel continues with Club 4x4’s downloadable guide to insuring a four-wheel drive. The aim is to avoid hiding behind ‘fine print’ and it also gives the company a chance to, again, educate current and potential customers as to what is really covered by their policy – with vehicle recovery the perfect example.
“The guide was something we put together specifically for that because people would say ‘Off-road recovery?’ My insurer will recover me if I have an accident,” Kalen says. “Well, that’s not what that product is about; it’s not about when you’ve had an accident, it’s about when you’re broken down or bogged, because every roadside assist policy in Australia has an off-road exclusion and a lot of people don’t know that.” Education is key.
IT’S EASY to be cynical and see an ulterior motive behind how Club 4x4 interacts with – and educates – its customers. However, that would be to ignore the fact the team behind it are, themselves, ‘clients’. They are passionate four-wheel drivers, too.
This is evident in a different type of education for Kalen who volunteers on the 4WD Council, working in conjunction with the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) to deal with state and federal government bodies who legislate vehicle regulations. It’s a difficult task, but when it directly affects you and your clients and the lifestyle you share, it’s worth the effort.
4x4 Advice: Roadside assistance in the bush
“I think they (governments) do listen, and we have had some great wins from a persistent and fact based approach,” he affirms. “My biggest gripe is that as a group of four-wheel drivers we need to be a little bit more understanding of how we are perceived. It is just so easy for people to assume that everyone that jumps behind the wheel of a lifted fourby is out doing doughnuts in off-road carparks or on campgrounds, because that’s what gets publicised. I think we need to clean up our act and find ways to publicise the positives.
“At the moment its way too easy to peg us as the five per cent who are out there doing the wrong things and it ends up with us losing access to certain places and being targeted on the road too. The majority of us are just tourists in our own country, contributing to incomes in country towns.”
The future is covered
SINCE its inception, Club 4x4’s growth has far outstripped what the founders thought it would be three years on. This reflects the fact four-wheel drivers had been looking for not only this specialist insurance product, but dealing with a company that lives the same lifestyle. It’d probably be easy for ‘the Club’ to rest on its laurels. However, the company still has new ideas to implement in the next 12 months.
“We are really pleased with the way the product has been received and the community we are building ,” Kalen says. “And we are looking at ways to provide our members with products they might have with other insurers at the moment to try and have everything in one place.”
As Kalen laughingly said when we first started chatting: “No-one trusts an insurer, mate.” And he’s not far wrong – in general. But there are always exceptions and listening to how enthusiastic he is for not only Club 4x4 and its success, but also the behind-the-scenes work he (and others there) does to protect the off-roading lifestyle, this is probably one “insurance guy” you wouldn’t slam the door on.