It all started in 1990, when a South African engineering company tendered for a World Health Organisation (WHO) project. The tender called for the development and production of solar-powered medical vaccination refrigerators (as part of a rollout project for large parts of Africa), and National Luna answered the call.
At the time, National Luna was manufacturing borehole pumps and 12V fluorescent lights, but it jumped at the opportunity. National Luna’s prototype 12V fridge was the only unit to pass the WHO’s stringent specifications; however, due to political reasons, the vaccination project was scrapped and National Luna was left with a portable fridge project worth R3 000 000. (A total of R3-million was invested in the development of the prototype refrigeration unit, a figure equivalent to around R10-million today).
It was a do-or-die situation – National Luna had to recoup its losses, and in the early 1990s it started marketing its 12V portable fridges to the outdoor travel industry, targeting any and all hobbyists that combined motor vehicles with an outdoor way of life. This included fishermen, hunters, caravaners and safari lodge owners (for their game viewing vehicles). Surprisingly, the recreational 4×4 market had yet to take root in South Africa; in fact, it wasn’t until the mid 90s that the off-road travel industry sprung to life.
As the number of 4×4 enthusiasts grew in South Africa, so did the demand for National Luna fridges, which were rapidly evolving to the meet the specific requirements of overland travellers, campers and tour operators. This led to the 1998 launch of an entire range of dedicated fridges for the off-road travel market.
Today, National Luna is the only manufacturer of specialised 4×4 fridges in Africa, and a global leader in 12V portable refrigeration. The manufacturing plant in Gauteng, South Africa, employs more than 70 workers, and while sections of the factory are fully automated, the actual assembly work is performed by hand.
Although National Luna can lay claim to many ‘fist-ever’ titles within the portable fridge game, it’s best known for its 2002 release of a dual-compartment fridge, and more specifically, that the temperatures of these two compartments could be controlled individually, one as a fridge and the other a freezer. What made this feature even more remarkable, is that National Luna managed to do this using only one compressor, and a sophisticated electronic control unit, resulting in significant space, weight and cost savings.
This dual-control feature was an industry first, and it took more than eight years for any competing brands, local or international, to release a dual fridge/freezer setup. These days, however, counterfeit manufacturers are relentless in their pursuit to copy the original South African brand, so much so that National Luna tackled this head-on by performing a test:
To gauge the degree of Chinese counterfeit production, National Luna created an electronic distribution board with a fake capacitor, one that served no function in the product’s operation. Remarkably, certain Chinese brands copied everything, right down to the obscure purposeless capacitor. But the degree of imitation went even further: one counterfeit company also copied a spelling mistake, written in tiny text, along the length of a wire. This served as a sobering reminder that National Luna needed to remain ahead of the competition at all times, to be the leading brand that perpetually innovates, pioneers, and proudly manufacturers the only commercial camping fridge in Africa, for harsh African conditions.
Boasting the largest range of 12V fridge / freezers in the world, National Luna is the preferred supplier to all major off-road trailer and caravan manufacturers in South Africa. Visit www.nationalluna.com for more overland solutions, or call (011) 452 5438.