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Q&A: Andy Wehmeyer of Audiofrog

Brand new car audio company, Audiofrog, is emerging at a time when big box stores and online sellers are slashing prices, in-turn making it more difficult for brick-and-mortar shops to compete. To explain the rationale for starting a new brand at this time, Andy Wehmeyer, president and CEO of this new high-end audio brand, sat down with Mobile Electronics for the June issue. Below is an excerpt from that interview:

ME: Tell us about the new brand. What inspired you to create it?

Wehmeyer: I spent the last 20 years working for a huge audio company. At the beginning, it was an absolute dream job. But after 20 years of getting a pretty good handle on the car audio business I saw an opportunity to do something that I don’t think anyone else is doing in a global kind of way.

There are global brands that are managing themselves in all of the markets like Harman, Pioneer, and JVC. While there are others, like Focal and Audison, they are primarily European-focused brands and they go to market in countries outside their home market exclusively through distributors. That can be a pretty good model if just moving product is your objective, but often that prevents dealers from getting proper training and receiving proper tech support. It can also lead to indiscriminate distribution, which destroys profitability for everyone.

What we’re after are the best specialty dealers in markets all over the world who are hungry for great-sounding products, straightforward tech support and involvement from the people who design and develop the products. It’s all about helpful support for specialists who cater to car lovers, car audio lovers, and enthusiasts everywhere.

Gary, Grizz and I have been in this business for almost 30 years. There’s a world full of installers who were exactly where we were 25-30 years ago. There will always be new guys who are learning their craft and we think there’s an opportunity to do premium business and give back some of what we were fortunate enough to learn from past industry veterans. There aren’t a lot of brands left who are providing great training. From my perspective, we’re the new industry vets. It’s our turn to be mentors and there’s a significant business opportunity out there.

ME: Why now? What makes this an ideal time or situation to bring a new brand to the marketplace?         

Wehmeyer: As a product guy, I was duped by financial managers into thinking I didn’t have the acumen to be a business manager. What I discovered later was that there’s a world full of financial managers that think managing a business is the same no matter who the customer is. What I now know is that this is absolutely not the case. The real value is in deep expertise and years of experience and contacts—that’s the stuff you can’t buy at business school.

An MBA is pretty important to get yourself in the door at a major corporation; if you want to be a business manager, that’s valuable. But in an enthusiast business like car audio, where people spend an inordinate amount of money on products they love, the real skill you need to be successful is a connection to the customer, experience in the market, and technical expertise with regard to products and their application. MBA-style management by spreadsheet is killing big brands as they focus on cutting services, making me-too products cheaper and battling for market share at the low end through price reductions in the big boxes and online. All of that is what made me decide this was the right time for us to do this, coupled with what I see as the two biggest markets in the world, Europe and the U.S., reverting back to what will have to be a focus on enthusiasts. 

ME: What is the product rollout map for the next year?

Wehmeyer: We’re going to launch a series of high-end speakers and subs at KnowledgeFest and another line shortly thereafter. We’ll also do amps and signal processing once the launch of the speakers is underway. All Audiofrog products are developed from the ground up and that takes time and money. There are many possibilities, but right now we’re focused on launching our speakers.

ME: Do you have a sales network in place?

Wehmeyer: No sales network in place yet. We’ve got some commitments from customers all over the world, pending samples and demos. There’s lots of interest.

ME: Are you going to sell through reps or distribution?

Wehmeyer: We’re going to sell direct in the US and through distributors in other markets. It’s really important to us that no matter the method by which we deliver product, that all dealers have access to the three of us for help and support. There won’t be any distributors in the US.

ME: What is the company's Internet sales policy?

Wehmeyer: We want to make sure people all over the country have a way to buy Audiofrog products. An online presence is an important part of that. There’s only going to be one online seller and they’ll provide high-end customer support that is also available by phone. We’re looking for the best partners and that’s no different when it comes to online business. 

**Be sure to check out the June issue of Mobile Electronics to read the rest of the interview.**

Last modified on Thursday, 15 May 2014 10:08
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