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October Issue Feature: The Support Team - ADS

10-11-2017, Mobile Electronics -- Think back to what the car buying experience was like two decades ago. Whether a consumer bought used or new, purchasing an aftermarket car stereo was no big hassle.

Today the landscape has completely changed with aftermarket companies forced to keep pace with all of the advanced technologies automakers are packing into their vehicles. But that is how Montreal, Canada -based Automotive Data Solutions, Inc. (ADS) helps its technology partners keep doing business as usual.

ADS specializes in the development and marketing of remote start and audio integration solutions destined for the aftermarket. Its list of technology partners, which reads like a who’s who of the 12-volt world, includes: Alpine, Arc Audio, AudioControl, Audison, Autopage, Belron (Canada), Compustar, Firstech, K40 Electronics, Kenwood, Omega, Pioneer, Rockford Fosgate, and Voxx.

Marketed under the iDatalink, iDatalink Maestro, and iDataStart brands, ADS products are sold and installed through a network of authorized dealers across North America, South America, Europe, and Russia. ADS also develops several private label solutions for various strategic partners and markets those worldwide.

“Right now the biggest challenge is that it’s a very vehicle specific game,” said ADS marketing director Dan Facciolo. “Go back 15 years ago and you were able to advertise and sell a car radio without having to worry that it wasn’t going to work in certain cars. Now when it comes time to market that radio you don’t want to worry about which cars it won’t work in.  Not every product works in every car, but that’s where we come in. We specialize in the vehicle interface part. Our job is to make the car radio or remote car starter from a manufacturer work in a lot of cars.”

A recent example involves BMW. “A few years ago we released the first remote car starter solution for BMWs that didn’t require the installers to physically install a key in the vehicle,” Facciolo said. “Over one year of R&D was invested in deciphering the technology, but years later, we still are the only company to have offered a solution.”

Even the most mainstream, popular vehicles have fallen victim to the same challenge, according to Facciolo. “A few years ago the Toyota Corolla became somewhat of a complicated vehicle if you wanted to install a remote car starter,” he said. “There are literally hundreds of thousands of Corollas sold every year. If you can’t install a remote car starter on them, it becomes a huge problem for the retail channel because they’re missing out on a bread-and-butter car, or the installation becomes a lot more expensive than it should be. Every year new cars are coming out with more technology and what we need to do is reverse engineer those technologies in order to install aftermarket products in those cars.”

Full-On Support

What makes ADS unique is that its comprehensive support efforts are not just limited to products. It is a powerful one-stop shop for its technology partners’ needs.

“We can manufacture their products from A to Z, but we also offer marketing and sales support,” said Facciolo. “We offer engineering support, IT support and on-the-road sales support. When you’re dealing with ADS, we can help you manufacture your product, assist with the marketing of it, or we can simply manufacture a component that is compatible with an OEM product.”

ADS has close to 100 employees with a large engineering team on both the remote start and car audio fronts. “Engineering and IT are our biggest departments,” said Facciolo. “We also have a large technical support department because we need to support all of our private label partners as well as our own brands across North America.” There is central marketing (which Facciolo heads up) where marketing collateral for private label customers is generated.

“When a manufacturer comes to us we don’t just create the product itself,” Facciolo said. “We help them develop the packaging. We make websites for them. Sometimes we create sales material. Often times we have a sales team that will go on the road and support a private label vendor at distributor shows or trade shows. ADS might be there giving presentations on behalf of the private label manufacturer. What we offer is end-to-end service—not just creating or manufacturing a product for them, but also offering the services that go along with the product.”

Just recently, ADS attended KnowledgeFest where the company had its own booth, but its presence went beyond that. “Our staff was also assisting other vendors at their booths and also in their trainings,” Facciolo said. “If you go to any road show, any big distributor show, any industry trade show, there is a good chance you’ll find an ADS representative at the Voxx booth, at the Compustar booth, or at the Kenwood booth.”

If there is a situation where a retailer is installing an ADS product and having an issue, the company has a technical support department open six days a week with social media available 24-7. “We have support groups and they’re available phone, social media, or forums which is pretty industry standard for our retailers,” Facciolo said.

With its technology partners, said Facciolo, if there is an engineering issue, then it is typically addressed engineering team to engineering team. “Their engineers will contact ours and we will work through the problem,” he said. “If it is vehicle specific, then we will get access to that vehicle and do the troubleshooting for them. Since we work with software, our product is designed to be programmed online. You plug our product into the USB cable to our website and there is software that gets flashed in and allows it to work on a certain vehicle. If it is a vehicle-specific bug, we get access to that car and make the necessary tweaks to the software that will make it work. It’s a quick process. As soon as a bug is reported we are able to address it pretty quickly and issue software updates through the Internet.”

Read the rest of the story HERE.

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