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8-9-2017, Mobile Electronics -- People sure do love their toys. Hot tubs, Harley-Davidsons, and Hunt yachts are a few on that list of disposable income pleasures. For Aquatic AV, outfitting those products with the best sound possible is its specialty.

The San Jose, Calif. -based company, founded in 2005, focuses on three categories—spa, marine, and Harley-Davidson motorcycle stereos and speakers. While the spa lineup is still the core of the company’s business—it supplies spa stereos, speakers, power supplies, and wiring harnesses—Aquatic AV is currently focusing on strengthening its marine business and Harley-Davidson line.

“The majority of our business is definitely with the spa industry,” said Kyle Aeschliman, vice president/national sales manager for Aquatic AV. “But marine and Harley are right behind that. We have been trying to build up the marine part of the business for the last eight years.”

Aquatic AV marine stereos are not only fully featured like many premium traditional car stereos, but come with marine grade environmental protection which is essential considering the exposure to salt, sand, and sea. Each is designed and built to withstand the harsh conditions associated with use in marine and boat applications.

For instance, the newest marine stereo, the AQ-MP-5UBT-S, is not only waterproof and IP55 rated, but offers Bluetooth, USB, and built-in SiriusXM receiver which grants access to more than 170 satellite radio stations. It features an onboard 288 Watt amplifier that can power up to 8x speakers.  

The lineup also includes BC, or Bluecube Hide-Away Marine Stereos. The AQ-BC-5UBT plays music wirelessly via a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, USB, or MP3 device. It is IP65 rated for use in any environment that is dry, wet, muddy, or damp.

“We also have 61/2-inch speakers which are doing really well for us,” Aeschliman said. “The line also includes a 10-inch subwoofer and waterproof 4-channel amplifier.”

On the Harley side, the first stereo was introduced three years ago, according to Aeschliman. “Since then we have released another Harley stereo so we currently have two head units in the market,” he said. “We have a set of Harley-Davidson speakers and there are plans to have another one released this summer.”

The big draw with the Harley products is that the head units are easy for anyone to install. “They are a plug-and-play replacement for Harley-Davidson motorcycles for years 1998 to 2013 so it’s a pretty wide market there,” Aeschliman said. “Harley-Davidson didn’t change any of their connectors on those years of models so one of the reasons those models have been doing well is because the stock stereo doesn’t have Bluetooth.”

Adjusting a stereo while riding a motorcycle can certainly present some serious challenges which is why, Aeschliman said, the integration with the hands free control is so important. “If you’re cruising down the road, you don’t want to be looking down at buttons on your stereo,” he said. “With our head unit integrating with the hand controls, it’s just as seamless as the stock Harley-Davidson stereo was to use, but with the added features of Bluetooth and the added power of our built-in amplifier—it’s all around a better system.”

Aquatic AV also added a two-year warranty. “Sometimes these stock stereos aren’t the most reliable so if someone has had a bike since 1998, a lot of these guys want to update to a newer and improved product,” Aeschliman said. “We use the stock 23-pin connection so all you need to do is remove your stock stereo, the wiring harness that is already on the motorcycle plugs directly into our head unit, and then there are four bolts to mount the inside of the Harley facing. It’s a really simple installation. It retains all of your hand controls. Some folks are using aftermarket car stereos but when you do that you have to buy a separate module to integrate with the bike’s wiring harness and enable your hand controls. With the 23-pin connector everything is easy—just plug-and-play with the wiring harness.” 

Read the rest of the article HERE.

12-14-2016, Mobile Electronics -- As the mobile electronics industry evolves, 12-volt manufacturers and retailers are constantly addressing the product categories that are most effective, those that are underperforming, and most importantly, the ones which represent where the business is headed.

None of that is lost on Bob Goodman, Director of Sales and Marketing, for Torrance, Calif.-based Rydeen Mobile Electronics, an aftermarket manufacturer that counts vehicle safety and convenience products among its core competencies.

“One of the challenges the 12-volt industry is facing is that we’re getting away from speakers and amplifiers, something we’ve been doing for 40-plus years,” Goodman said. “These days, the challenges of driver safety are becoming far more critical. If you make a mistake on the road or while driving, you could lose lives. If someone’s radio doesn’t work correctly, no one dies. It’s important that we get this right the first time—not the second time.”

Goodman, who considers himself an ambassador of sorts for the vehicle safety category, is trying to get the word out about its importance—not just to retailers, but to the industry as a whole. He may have more of a chance to do that, now that he’s been recently elected to the Vehicle Technology Division board of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). Its key initiatives are to raise consumer awareness of automotive technologies and installation, and to serve as a leading voice on safe driving and vehicle-related legislative and regulatory issues.

“The challenge for us as a manufacturer is to create awareness within the category,” Goodman said. “The 12-volt retailers have not globally embraced this category, but they are starting to get it.”

In 2015, more than 38,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes, according to the National Safety Council. According to the Council’s annual report on unintentional injuries, the three biggest causes of fatalities on the road included alcohol (30.8 percent), speeding (30 percent), and distracted driving (26 percent).

All of the new technology in vehicles is causing more driver distraction behind the wheel than ever before, but part of it stems from the fact that 53 percent of drivers believe if manufacturers have loaded all this entertainment into their cars, then it must be safe.

Enhancing car security systems for occupants as well as pedestrians has become a greater priority for automakers worldwide. It also presents tremendous potential for aftermarket manufacturers.

 “We have shored up our resources and we’re adding new products that will get traction with consumers,” Goodman said.

Blind Sight

At the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) show held last month, Rydeen showcased four new products—three of which represented new product categories for the company.

One of the key introductions, according to Goodman, is the BSS1, the Blind Spot Detection System, with an MSRP of $599. “We have been selling side cameras as a solution for the blind spot issue, but we came up with an alternative in terms of sensors,” he said.

For the most part, Goodman explained, vendors use ultrasonic sensors for these types of blind spot devices that are similar to what is used for parking sensors. It has been the only alternative, until recently.

“Now we’re starting to see more microwave radar systems, which are far more accurate and easier to install for the 12-volt specialty retailer,” Goodman said. Rydeen’s new system employs microwave technology to warn drivers of any vehicles within their blind zones and, Goodman added, is more accurate than competitors’ systems employing ultrasonic sensors. The two compact microwave sensors mount behind the bumper, eliminating drilling into the bumper of the vehicle. Alerts are displayed with mini LED icons on each A pillar and a buzzer mounted behind or under the dashboard.

With installation being less complicated, it may open up more opportunities for the category. “In talking to installers and retailers over the last two to three years, blind spot detection is one of those things that the OE has offered on higher-end vehicles and parts of technology packages,” Goodman said. “The consumer is aware of it and has asked about it, yet many retailers we’ve spoken to have shied away from it because it required drilling into the vehicle. First of all, that can be time consuming, but the other issue was, if the consumer didn’t like the result, if their expectations and what the product actually delivered were not in sync, then they had an issue that there were holes in their vehicle that had to be addressed.”

Read the rest of the article HERE.

2-15-2017, Mobile Electronics -- If you walked the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center at CES last month, chances are pretty good that you passed MTX Audio. Even if you didn’t see them, you probably heard them.

Now managed by John Ivey, president of Mitek, the company is forging new directions, diversifying its properties and adding new products.  

“I grew up in this industry,” Ivey said. “We lived in the factory when I was a kid. I went to Iasca events when I was a child. I grew up in this industry going to all the shows and knowing all the people. Even through college, I worked at Mitek.”

John’s father, Loyd, who founded the company and still serves as CEO, is considered a pioneer in the industry. He maintains the vision, leadership and dedication of the company and was honored by the Consumer Technology Association in 2013 for his 16 years of service at the time on CTA Executive Boards.

These days, the family-owned business offers high-performance car, marine, home and street audio products to customers in over 80 countries around the world.

“While every CES grows in attendance, and I’m a big fan of CES—I’m on the CTA Automotive Board and the Board of Industry Leaders—there were not as many car audio dealers that attended the show as there used to be,” said the younger Ivey.

Prior to the show, Ivey said he had considered displaying some of the other products that Mitek makes to get more traffic to the booth. “We could have showed some more of the commercial audio goods,” he said. “We make a VOIP speaker that is powered over the Ethernet. I thought about adding those things into our booth to draw more people, but I wanted to stay true to North Hall—what North Hall is really supposed to be. So we haven’t done anything like that as of yet.”

Not Just Subs

When most people think of MTX, what first comes to mind is, “Oh, yeah, they’re the company that makes subwoofers.” (Thunder9500, RFL, Jackhammer). “We do that, but we do a lot more,” Ivey said, who has been running the commercial side of things for the last six years. “MTX is really where our company was founded, then grew. That has allowed us to invest in other companies and expand our portfolio. Now we have everything from ear buds to the largest audio systems in the world."

For instance, the largest division of Mitek is Atlas IED which Ivey estimates to be 10 times larger than MTX. “It’s a neat division and it allows us to gain exposure to the technology that is coming—future technology,” he said.

Basically, what the company does is digital audio transport. “Our system runs 80 percent of the world’s international airports,” Ivey said. “You have probably heard a woman who works for us and she is the voice of all the airports. So the voice you hear at JFK is that same voice you will hear in Orlando or Vegas, or Hong Kong. It’s the same voice at each airport. When the gate agent picks up the microphone and speaks—‘Delta flight 213 boarding out of gate C12’—that audio is turned into digital information and it is streamed to a massive server. We just completed the World Trade Center building in New York City, and not only did we do that building for the city, we do all the audio for the New York City subway stations.”

Read the rest of the story HERE.

1-17-2017, Mobile Electronics -- Being a 12-volt business is interesting and challenging. Being a 12-volt business that is family-owned and operated takes it to another level, especially considering that less than one third of family businesses survive the transition from first to second generation.

Scosche, which was founded by Roger and Scotia Alves, is going on its 37th year of business with the next generation, brothers Kas Alves and Vince Alves, serving as executive vice presidents.

Back in 1980, the company operated out of a residential garage in Southern California with its roots in research and consulting. When the focus turned to car audio, the first clients included heavy-hitters Alpine and Kenwood.

Seeing major potential in the automotive audio aftermarket, Scosche developed their first dash kit and launched what has become a signature product category for the company. In fact, the first of the company’s 100-plus patents in 1994 was for a GM vehicle dash kit.

From its humble start to a sprawling campus in Oxnard, Calif., the company now has two distribution centers. One is located on the main campus while the second one, which boasts 14 docks and 30-foot side wall construction, is based in Spruce Pine, Ala. It allows Scosche to reach 37 states within 48 hours using standard ground services. The company has an international presence with an office in Hong Kong and as its products are sold in more than 50 countries.

Not only has Scosche grown out of its garage, but it has significantly expanded its range of offerings to more than 4,000 SKUs. In addition to dash kits and wire harnesses, its products include antennas, amps, speakers, subs, speaker enclosures, Bluetooth accessories, power and audio cables, iPhone accessories, and much more.

Business In A Dash

“If you go back 20 years ago with the company, there were dash kits and wire harnesses, and that was the extent of the 12-volt line,” said Nate Perkins, 12 Volt Team Manager, now on his second stint with Scosche. He was previously with the company from 1997 and 2010. 

 “Today it is much more technologically driven as far as integration and with being able to add on to your OEM system with different auxiliary inputs, adding an aftermarket radio to your factory amplifier, or your factory warning system," added Perkins. "Integration has really come to the forefront.”

The impact has been far reaching for the consumer.

“Consumers are intimidated,” Perkins said. “They look at their OEM car stereo and wish it did a couple more things. But some of the guys who have these vehicles are guys that started out 20 years in the industry when it was easy to make changes. Now they look at it and it’s a whole other animal. The dashboard is more integrated with the entire system of the vehicle—the radio, the AC controls, the warning chimes, and the warning systems. There is really a huge intimidation factor. So one of the biggest hurdles right now is educating the consumer that they can change out their OEM stereo, they can integrate with it, and they can add to their experience.”

Not to mention the challenge it creates for dealers.

 “One of the biggest hurdles on the dealers’ end is embracing the amount of inventory they’ve got to have,” said Shane Condon, 12 Volt Product Development Manager. “It used to be that they could stock a few items and be pretty confident that it would cover anything that came into their install bay. That’s just not the case anymore. More and more dealers are stocking the basic items, but then they use the just-in-time inventory system for everything else.”

Read the rest of the story HERE.

July 20, 2016 -- Today’s installations range from the extremely complex and ultra expensive to the more basic and economical. Either way, creativity and countless man hours go into each job. The key then for any 12-volt retailer is to balance it all and make the process profitable.

Bryan Schmitt, president of Tempe, Ariz.-based Mobile Solutions, who started out in 1990 as a car audio fabricator, recognized early on how challenging these custom jobs could be. Each time, for each job and for each car, the wheel had to be reinvented.

“Back when I started out we didn’t really have a lot of resources and the biggest thing with working on cars is we didn’t have some type of template or clean geometry,” Schmitt said. “We were always cutting with cardboard and using a jigsaw and I just had this inspiration.”

Not surprisingly, it was prompted in part by Schmitt’s education. “My background before I even got into car audio was mechanical engineering,” he said. “I knew that using geometry was the key for making clean shapes and keeping the automotive DNA, if you will.”

In the beginning, Schmitt kept things basic. He started making some simple templates—circles and ovals—which helped him personally with his fabrication work. “I was able to take geometry and use it on an install. I started building cars that were completely symmetrical using a template like what you would use if you were drafting, except these were full size and for cars.”

In 1996, Schmitt was recruited to work for Rockford Corporation’s fabrication training group, RTTI, where he was responsible for building show vehicles—some of which garnered industry awards including a prestigious CES Best of Show. By 2003, he was Director of Technical Development for a national 12-volt retailer.

Soon after, in 2005, Schmitt was ready to take the next step and founded Mobile Solutions. He started working on developing more shapes for the templates. “I wanted to share it with the industry because I thought there was a market for it and I knew it would help people,” he said.

Shaping Up

The circles and ovals soon developed into arcs and more complex shapes like comets and triangles, until there was a full lineup. “It has been exciting over the years to see it grow and to see how it has affected the industry, and even changed it because of the efficiency,” Schmitt said. Today, the company offers more than 400 SKUs (stock keeping units) and over 50 different styles of templates.

“The shapes we offer now are cool, but to bring things up to date, we’re building templates that really match a lot of the automobiles,” Schmitt said. “For instance, take some of the grilles out there—like for an Audi or a Lexus. That shape, that DNA, can be used on the inside of the car for a subwoofer box or an amp rack, or whatever. To take it a step further, we’ve made templates that are completely modular. You can put them together like an adjustable template or like an erector set where you can completely manipulate and change the shape. It just speeds up the process so you can get more creative in a short period of time.”

Read the rest of the article HERE.

7-19-2017, Mobile Electronics -- Out on the west coast of California where many car audio and video companies are headquartered, SAVV Entertainment Systems makes its home, too. A manufacturer and importer of 12-volt video products, dash cams, and its range of Smart-Link products, the company has its own engineering lab in South Korea and manufacturing facility in China.

In business since 1998, SAVV has steadfastly built a strong network of regional distributors and retailers. A regular in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES for more than a decade, SAVV has also through the years established itself as an OEM partner to automakers and to other 12-volt companies.

Interestingly, the company established itself on a product category that is diminishing every year, and while it will never go away, rear seat entertainment has been forever changed.

“We have been doing video products for years—and that is our specialty,” said Daniel Lee, vice president of SAVV. “That includes headrest monitors and overhead monitors which we have offered since the company began back in 1998.”

Today, the most popular size for the overhead monitor is still the 10- inch, according to Lee. For the headrest, the most popular sizes are between seven and nine inches. “That has been the standard for years,” he said. “A few years back, there was a demand for larger screens so we brought out a 10-inch headrest monitor. We were the first company in the U.S. with that product, but the market demands have changed. It has been steady for years now at seven to nine inches.”

Zone Alone

Not that long ago, in-vehicle entertainment systems became a pretty big deal. Whatever options the consumer chose—overhead monitors or a pair of headrest versions—having movies in the car started out as a novelty. Ultimately these monitors became big sellers for families as a way to keep the kids entertained on vacations, road trips, or even just rides around town while getting errands done.

But with the continued popularity of tablets (the iPad came out in April of 2010) and the even bigger proliferation of smartphones that kids have learned to use practically at pre-school age, the idea of an overhead and or rear seat monitor has gotten some serious competition in the car.

More common than ever these days is that everyone has his or her own zone in a vehicle. In-vehicle entertainment—rear seat entertainment, in particular—is still an important and enjoyable convenience for a family to have, but it has meant some rethinking for SAVV.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

From its small beginnings rooted in a now-obsolete product, Voxx International is manufacturing products at every end of the electronics spectrum, giving itself nowhere to go but up.

Mobile Electronics, June Issue, Behind The Scenes, 6/16/2016 -- Does anyone remember pocket transistor radios? Probably not, yet this tiny gadget served as the foundation for one of the most formidable consumer electronics companies in the industry today—Voxx International.

Back in 1960, John Shalam sold pocket transistor radios for an import company, but when a deal went south that left him saddled with 2,000 car stereos, he unexpectedly had a new game plan and a new company. By 1965 Audiovox was in business and Shalam was selling aftermarket car radios to car dealers. The timing couldn’t have been better since back then approximately 35 percent of the vehicles delivered to a new car dealer came without a car radio. From there, he moved the product to mom-and-pops and then to mass merchants.

Today, that gumption is still very much part of the company’s ethos where Shalam remains as chairman of the board. Renamed Voxx International in December 2011, it is now headed by CEO Pat Lavelle who has been in that role since 2005.

“Starting with John and all the people who have been important in shaping the company along the way, it has always been entrepreneurial and still is,” Lavelle said. “John set the company up that way and we have carried on that entrepreneurial spirit even through all of our acquisitions. Really, the essence has not changed much from when I started with the company back in 1977.”

Through its natural evolution and strategic acquisitions, Voxx has boomed from its car stereo roots to a major consumer electronics company that manufactures and supplies product to big box retailers, specialty and mass merchants, as well as to automotive OEMs including Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, DAF Daimler, Peugeot, Ford Motor Company, Chrysler, General Motors Corporation, Toyota, Kia, Mazda, Subaru, Nissan, Porsche and Bentley.

Pacing With Product

Throughout the company’s evolution, Voxx has both embraced and extricated itself from certain product categories while trying to maintain momentum in the tech industry. The company’s ability to chart a successful course while many of its competitors have struggled or simply gone away has made it a strong partner for 12-volt and specialty retailers who have also gained the opportunity to invest in new product categories and technologies.

In the early 1980s, Audiovox was one of the first companies in the country to introduce remote car start. Today, remote start remains a core segment for aftermarket automotive retailers.

Then the car phone emerged as the next big thing. “Everybody wanted to have a phone in their car,” Lavelle said. “We developed our car phone business which then expanded into handsets. We became a big supplier of cellular in the U.S., and for a number of years we had number one market share in CDMA phones.”

By 2004, the cell phone business declined and Audiovox exited cellular leaving just the electronics. “We obviously had our roots in the automotive side and wanted to continue with it,” Lavelle said. Today, the automotive business—aftermarket and OEM—accounts for 50 percent of Voxx’s total volume. “We are very active in the aftermarket and continue to look at disruptive technologies that are going to be introduced in the aftermarket eventually moving into the OEM space.”

Read the rest of the story HERE.

6-12-2017, Mobile Electronics Magazine -- The human voice registers at 25 to 35 decibels. Anything higher than 130 dB and you hit the pain threshold. Go to a rock concert and you’re in for about 125 dB. Fireworks or a space shuttle launch—even when you’re a few miles away—deliver almost off-the-charts sound. More obscure, but unbelievably powerful, is the low-frequency rumble of a blue whale at over 185 dB.

Now imagine a vehicle with pressure-sealed doors, a shatter-proof windshield, and booming bass—amps and subs packed to the max inside—and you’ve just entered the world of sound pressure league competitors. 

Auto sound competition, or what some might even consider a car audio art form, has been around for quite some time. The original governing body back in 1988 was called the National Autosound Challenge Association (NACA), but the name didn’t cover its scope as more people got involved.

“After a few Canadian distributors and dealers saw the value in what it was doing for the industry and came on board, they changed the name to IASCA (International Auto Sound Challenge Association) in 1989, said Moe Sabourin, director of operations for IASCA Worldwide. “IASCA’s main purpose was, and still is, to be a tool for retailers to promote the car audio industry to the general public and to gain exposure and credibility for the industry as a whole.”

Sabourin has been in the industry since 1978—as a shop owner from 1998 to 2004, as an IASCA competitor from 1994 to 2005 (not to mention a former IASCA world champion), and now as general manager of Soundcrafters in Daytona Beach, Fla. He has also used the IASCA rules on the sales floor to gain credibility with his clients.

“It was a successful program that helped increase sales at my shop exponentially in the first three years of its existence,” Sabourin said. “I have been, and continue to be, a firm believer that the program works when used. Much like an installer and his tool box, a shop is the tool box and the IASCA rule book is a tool in the tool box, and a tool only works when the installer uses it. If the program is used, it works.”

Sabourin, who was recently at an IASCA judges training at Soundscape Car Audio in Dallas, said one of the hottest topics of discussion among attendees was exactly this—going over the IASCA rulebook and how it can help build credibility with customers. “Our retail memberships have a full package that gives basic sales techniques and offers tools that dealers can use within their showrooms to increase sales and increase profits,” Sabourin said. “We spent a good three hours just talking about that.”

Presently, there are about 150 IASCA events a year. “Promoters all across the country host events at local levels in their specific areas,” Sabourin said. “For dealers, it brings them exposure and creates excitement, but the main goal for a retailer is to use the IASCA name and tools on the sales floor to generate credibility, enhance their reputation, and promote their quality of work.”

IASCA, as many mistakenly assume, is not just a competition organization. “We are an organization designed for the betterment of the industry and to get some exposure to the consumer and to the public,” Sabourin said. “We do that through sanctioned events, local level events, and through the dealers as more of a tune-up clinic. Consumers can bring their vehicles into the retailer, and then show them off to the public. It allows people to see that we’ve been educated in the proper installation techniques and that we’re here to move into the 21st century with new technologies as well.”

The organization also issues its well-known IASCA Sound Quality Reference CD, which for the first time, is a two-disc set. Disc one is the evaluation CD and contains 32 new technical tracks and snippets of musical tracks for judging car audio systems. Disc two is the entertainment CD; it contains the full-length version of the musical tracks used on the evaluation CD for the listener’s enjoyment. The musical tracks were carefully chosen for their ability to clearly define the sound quality of the system it plays on. 

 

Read the rest of the story HERE.

5-18-2017 -- The beginning of car audio is rooted in the early 1970s when CB radio and 8-track players were a big deal—before the first sound-off events were staged in the late ’80s.

Out on the West Coast, a movement had started. Folks wanted more out of their cars than the standard sonic fare. A group of enthusiasts had an idea about what needed to be done and started building 12-volt audio amplifiers. This was the backdrop for Audiomobile, launched with industry pioneers Paul Starry and Rich Coe at the helm. 

The company name, of course, says it all. “It is a landscape name,” said Matt Overpeck, Vice President of Audiomobile. “It says exactly who we are—audio and mobile—and it is an absolute legacy brand. Many would say it is the genesis of high-end car audio.”

The original Audiomobile from Costa Mesa, Overpeck said, not only put Starry and Coe on the map, but Larry Frederick and other luminaries like John Bishop, who literally wrote the book on high-end car audio. “They had a technical training manual that they published on a quarterly basis that was the vanguard of teaching retailers about audio and stereo,” Overpeck said.

Audiomobile was not only at the forefront of the high-end car audio evolution then, but has managed to survive being bought, shuttered and re-launched. Today, according to the company’s web site, Audiomobile is fully committed to delivering products that represent a “no compromise” philosophy.

 “We have no Internet sales, we do business with no distributors, we are in some respects the antithesis of your typical car audio brand,” Overpeck said. “In fact, we actually say that we’re not a car audio brand, but a solutions-based audio engineering company that develops products for the automotive platform.”

From terminology like the 6-channel (front-rear sub) architecture to the “amp rack” concept, Audiomobile—according to company lore—brought these technologies to the mobile audio world.

These days the company maintains its standing with targeted product offerings, working exclusively with boutique specialty shops that can handle the kind of installs its products demand, said Overpeck, and which also have the discerning clientele that Audiomobile is interested in courting.

“We have been at CES for the last seven years but we always exhibit off-site because we’re not interested in the typical tire kickers,” Overpeck said, adding that the company also seeks to avoid the drama and excessive costs of CES. “It is a union town so if you want to hang a sign over your booth, it’s 10 grand. The logistics in and out are obscene. It just doesn’t make sense for us since we are incredibly selective about who we do business with. We’re pretty much on an invitation-only basis.”

Turning The Tide

The car audio business over the years attracted many types without much need for credentials, according to Overpeck. “The barriers to entry on any level—manufacturer, retailer, rep—were about as thin as a dime, “he said. “Anyone could get into the game. It attracted a lot of people looking for low hanging fruit. No problem, but then comes 2008 which was a real paradigm shift.”

At that point, people didn’t have a lot of discretionary money, so the only thing that was selling was cheap. “Since a company’s prime directive is to survive, and if the only thing that is selling is cheap, then you’re making cheap stuff,” he said. “As a result that dragged down the average selling price, dragged down reliability, and put a real burden on retailers because then they’re selling to fewer customers at lower prices at lower margins. It was a perfect storm—a triple hit—and it persisted for quite some time.”

Thankfully car audio, and the consumer electronics industry overall, has seen a resurgence and the tide has turned. “People are buying vinyl records and record players again,” Overpeck said. “There is an elasticity to the U.S. consumer buying cycles and mindset. What people have figured out, now that things have stabilized with the economy, is that if they have money to spend—and I am hearing this from lots of retailers—consumers want better quality. They don’t want to buy junk. If you couple that with a car audio industry where retailers are now in the business of integrating into computers on wheels, it has thinned the herd to a large degree.”

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Exploring new territories, retailers branch out as manufacturers to stake new claims and feed their passion.

Mobile Electronics May 2016 Issue, May 25, 2016 -- The simple formula of retailers operating only their stores as part of their business plan is becoming a strategy of another economic era. Today, retailers are diversifying their options from not only doing installations and selling sound products, but to operating training organizations and launching their own branded products.

What is driving this new way of doing business is a passion for the industry and the hope of reinventing and reinvigorating one’s business and oneself, as well as giving back to the 12-volt world.

 The Right Fit

Back in 2011, Perfectionist Auto Sound, based in Anchorage, Alaska won the coveted Mobile Electronics Retailer of the Year award. According to owner John Schwartz, it was this honor that put the retailer on the map along with being the number one Compustar retailer in the world. The next year when Schwartz taught a business class at Mobile Solutions in Tempe, Ariz. a few guys from Australia were there.

“First question they asked was why they didn’t have Compustar in Australia,” Schwartz said. “Good idea, I told them, let’s make it happen. Daniel Gardner, owner of a retail shop called Carbon Car Systems, which is right outside of Sydney, and I talked about it and worked on it. We formed Compustar Australia.”

It was Gardner who discovered a sound deadening product which he was successfully selling in his shop. The product, branded under the Carbon Car Systems name, was intriguing to Schwartz. “It was a beautiful product,” Schwartz said. “And I wanted to do the same thing for Perfectionist—just bring it in and brand it under our name. The only problem was no one was going to buy it because it would have our name on it. Why would they want our name on it when they would rather have their own name on it?”

After discussions, Gardner and Schwartz knew that to sell it to other retailers, the product had to be global. That is how SoundSkins USA was born.

With a global plan and a product that every shop could comfortably sell, it was time to bring it here to the States. Today, SoundSkins USA is a full production house. “We have a distribution point in Dallas so we can ship to everyone in the country,” Schwartz said. “We’ve gotten a lot of traction.”

Not only is it easy for retailers to place orders and get product, but since it is a rep-less model without the need to pay commissions, Schwartz can keep the costs low.

Read the complete story HERE.

11-16-2016, Mobile Electronics -- The Pacific Northwest, well known as a music and tech haven, and also the birthplace of grunge, is where you will find the home of AudioControl. The distinctive geographical setting is appropriate for a company with its own unique heritage. Started by musician and former Boeing worker Greg Mackie in his basement in 1977, AudioControl has grown up from its humble roots to become a major name in the consumer technology world.

In business for almost 40 years, the company designs and builds top-notch audio equipment (for both home and car) from scratch. With two facilities, an 8,000 square-foot building in Spokane, and a 24,000 square-foot operation in Mountlake Terrace, Wash., AudioControl takes tremendous pride in its “made in America” background.

Today, the company has about 50 employees—including obsessive audio experts and accomplished engineers—who are completely passionate about what they do.

“One of the most interesting things for me coming on board a year and a half ago is that AudioControl is poised with all of their history to do some outstanding things,” said Chris Bennett, national sales manager-mobile, who has 23 years invested in the mobile electronics industry.

“It is probably one of the most consistent 12-volt companies that has ever existed,” he said. “Sales have never dramatically increased, but they’ve never dramatically decreased either. We still sell the same amount of EQs, processors, epicenters and line drivers as we did in the last 20 years.” And not only does it sell to the entire country, but the company also ships its products all over the globe to every continent except Antarctica. 

Not to mention the company’s mission and tagline is refreshingly simple: “Making good sound great.”

According to Brandon Cook, director of technical services, who has been with AudioControl for 10 years, everyone is passionate about what they do from a quality standpoint. “What we’re doing is providing the means for folks to experience their favorite thing—music in their car,” he said. “That is what our stereo products do. They let folks build up their audio systems into what allows them a true experience instead of just sticking a couple of speakers in their doors.”

That passion, Cook added, translates all the way through to customer service, technical support, engineering, the components that are chosen and placed by hand, and then tested by hand. “I have a passion for an elegant interface,” Cook said. “Something that the installer can actually put in there that makes sense and is not too cumbersome.” 

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9-21-2016 -- As things typically go in the consumer electronics world, you can start out in one place and end up somewhere completely unexpected. Such was the case with Paul Goldberg, who took the reins at the Montebello, Calif.-based Epsilon Group of Companies more than 18 months ago as VP of sales and marketing.­­

Started 35 years ago by brothers Jack and Don Rochel, Epsilon has grown from its roots as a single brand, Power Acoustik, to an industry leading outfit that houses several major names under its umbrella including Farenheit, SPL, Soundstream, and Precision Power.

Surprisingly, Goldberg’s career hasn’t included car audio at all. He worked for DXG Technology Inc., a maker of digital cameras and camcorders. He spent time at Epson America, MicroCom, and Diamond Multimedia where he spent 10 years selling cable modems, routers and graphics cards for gamers. “I’ve been in just about everything over the years.”

But being a newcomer to the 12-volt world definitely has its advantages. “The reason [the Rochel brothers] brought me on board was because of my different perspective than a lot of vets in the business,” Goldberg said. “My background is computers, peripherals, connectivity, video, still pictures—and all of these technologies are now being incorporated into the connected car environment. I’m not a hardcore audiophile, but I’ve come into this industry with a lot of experience in other consumer electronics categories and have an understanding of the different channels for those kinds of technologies. So that is where my perspective differs and gives me the ability to take a look at where this company can go and will go into the future as opposed to the same things that have been done already. What are we going to do, come out with another thousand-watt amplifier? What consumers want is access to technology at a reasonable cost—and that is what we do.”

All In The Family

With his fresh outlook, Goldberg is focused on positioning all of the company’s diverse brands to a more discerning consumer base. “We’re looking to differentiate,” he said. “One of the issues is that a lot of the different models have similarities. We need to have each model in each brand do its own thing and exist on its own rather than be a clone of another brand. There has been a lot of diversification in the last year. You’ve seen the graphic user interface with video products. The performance and design with speakers and amps are now very different.”

The products also target different price points and address different concerns of consumers in the marketplace, Goldberg noted.

The growth strategy that has been in place has paid off, he said, with market share and profitability results to prove it. “We’ve grown by six or seven percent, very profitable,” Goldberg said. “We’re about 12 to 14 percent ahead of where we were last year at this time.”

The backbone of the effort is about having the right product. “In general, we’ve been very successful in head units that incorporate navigation,” Goldberg said. “Our competitors have been indicating that that’s been on the decline, but our customers have said they’re coming to us because we produce a great product at a great price. A lot of our units allow you to plug in your smartphone and mirror what’s on your display. Incorporating your smartphone into your head unit has been a real winner for us in terms of where we have gone.”

The company has also added digital amps to its lineup—ones that are smaller and throw off much less heat with more power than the gigantic amps that have been the norm in the business for a long time. “Even though it’s technology that has just started being embraced by the consumer, it is a good strategy because it’s growing.”

Speaker technologies have also been expanded with a variety of woofers at different price points that are both efficient and capable of handling a range of amp power. “Those have done very well for us,” Goldberg noted.

To steer product development in the right direction, Goldberg has implemented something he has found successful in his previous lives—the focus group. “When we design something, engineers talk to chip makers about all the great technology that can be incorporated into a product. If you incorporate this great tech into a product, you also have to consider what the consumer wants. We’ve gotten a lot of consumer feedback. We create prototypes, get consumer feedback, and based on that feedback decide what features will be included in products. We’re just seeing now how it is starting to pay off.”

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