Whether or not you have a tracking unit fitted to your caravan, the chances are, you’ve heard of Phantom trackers.
In October 2021, along with another local company, AMI, which deals with trackers for construction vehicles and plant, Phantom was acquired by the Moving Intelligence Group, based in the Netherlands, Germany, and now the UK.
It may have changed its name, but it still offers a range of popular caravan security products.
And as with many things in the world of caravanning, how Phantom came about is an interesting story.
I recently visited the new Moving Intelligence premises near Stockport, where I spoke to Sales Director and co-founder of Phantom, Steve Cherry.
If you’re on the lookout for some other useful security products too, be sure to check out our caravan wheel lock guide, where we share our top picks on the market.
The origins of Phantom
In 2001, Steve, his brother Simon and a friend who worked in the car finance marketplace were having a drink in a pub.
The company that the friend worked for financed people with poor credit ratings to buy cars, and the subject of defaulting on payments arose.
In the course of their chat, one of them said: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could track these, and if people don’t pay, we can get them back?”
At the time, they weren’t aware of any company doing that. So the seed was sown.
Steve laughed when he told me that Simon “was always the crazy one, who’d throw in a good job and go off with some new idea or other”, but he was the sensible one!
Simon did exactly that, and found a contact at Salford University who in turn had links with a company called Salford Electronics. Between them, a small tracking device was built for Simon and Steve, who then cannibalised a Nokia 5110 phone (remember those?) by removing the keypad and battery and inserting their printed circuit board and a GPS antenna.
This was then put into its own container and the appropriate electrical connections were attached, resulting in the first Phantom tracking unit.
At the time, Phantom only had that one customer, but they wanted to safeguard the future, so looked at making connections with insurance companies.
To gain more credibility, they applied for Thatcham approval. Back then, rather than having a Thatcham rating, if a company was successful, it was added to Thatcham’s Q-List.
Eventually, Phantom obtained its Q-List certificate.
Eventually, Phantom decided to move away from the car finance company arrangement, and instead began to concentrate its efforts on motorcycles and their insurance.
Like caravanners, motorbike owners tend to be enthusiastic about their vehicles, and the Phantom tracker was very well received by them and by dealers. Insurance companies, however, seemed to be taking a rather strange approach.
One insurance provider told Steve they’d offer a 3% premium reduction for a Phantom unit fitted to a motorcycle, whereas they offered 10% for an alarm and 5% for a floor anchor.
Their view was that a tracker wouldn’t stop a motorbike being stolen. Steve’s response was, “No, but you will get some of them back!” At the time, the Yamaha R1 was the most stolen motorcycle in the UK. Steve asked, “How many of them have alarms fitted?”
“All of them,” was the reply. “Well, that’s not stopping them being stolen, is it?” said Steve.
At the time, despite more than 1000 motorcycles being stolen every week, Steve said they simply couldn’t get insurance companies interested.
Looking at leisure vehicles
Then in 2003, Steve happened to pick up a leaflet at an event, listing companies offering a discount for having a tracker fitted – one being well-known caravan and motorhome insurer Caravan Guard.
A few telephone calls later and the product was sold.
Caravan Guard offered a discount to customers who had a Phantom tracker fitted, and they also became mandatory on high-value motorhomes. Brownhills Motorhomes, in Newark, Nottinghamshire, was the first dealership to retrofit Phantom trackers.
Not long after, a Mk2 version of the tracker was launched. This could link into the vehicle’s alarm system; when activated, the control room would receive a notification and could then contact the owner to inform them that the vehicle alarm had been triggered.
Customers themselves then became a free advertisement for Phantom, in so much as they would say things like, “That was Phantom saying my alarm’s going off on the caravan.”
In the early days, some caravan manufacturers kept Phantom at arm’s length, but in 2009/10, Lunar started factory-fitting the tracker units as standard on its Clubman and Delta ranges.
Over the years, Phantom has partnered with Italian company Gemini to produce a reliable alarm system of its own, which could be factory-fitted, rather than having to plug into a third-party system instead.
Phantom alarm systems are now fitted as standard to Coachman caravans, with the tracker being an option, and the company has worked with the manufacturer (head to our best caravan brand guide to find out more about them) and electronics specialists BCA (which makes the wiring looms for Coachman, including specific alarm and tracker power supplies).
Coachman places the alarm units where they’re most difficult to access by thieves, and continually changes where the tracking devices are installed.
Steve told me that although Coachman vans aren’t stolen that often, every one that has had a tracker fitted has been retrieved. Quite a claim.
From Phantom’s beginnings with the two brothers, Moving Intelligence (UK) now employs 23 staff in the main office, with a further eight call centre staff. Steve believes they might be the only tracking company running their own dedicated call centre.
In the UK, 23,000 units are currently monitored, of which about 16,000 are installed in caravans and motorhomes.
Moving Intelligence as a group has more than 180,000 vehicles being tracked across Europe.
One thing I like is the phone app that’s been developed for the tracking units. Not only does this give the status and location of your caravan, it also indicates the condition of the leisure battery and the mileage history, and allows you to arm and disarm the alarm system. It includes 24/7 monitoring, too.
After some more industry insights? Then take a look at these:
- Nigel Hutson finds out about the inflatable LocknLevel caravan levelling system.
- Nigel Hutson goes behind the scenes at acrylic window manufacturers Polyplastic and Delta Glass.
- Great graphics make all the difference to a caravan, as Nigel Hutson discovers at CGI.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, why not get the latest news, reviews and features delivered direct to your door or inbox every month. Take advantage of our brilliant Practical Caravan magazine SUBSCRIBERS’ OFFER and SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER for regular weekly updates on all things caravan related.