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1-9-2017 -- Known as the largest electronics show on the planet, CES provides an opportunity for new innovation at the start of each year. This year, it did not dissapoint, providing a place for mobile electronics manufacturers to showcase new ideas to eager retailers and industry insiders.

This year's event took place at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) and featured some potential game changers for many companies. With a packed show floor, visitors from all over the world were able to see innovations that could affect them more than they know.

Perhaps the biggest innovation that many companies are developing products for, is the concept of OEM integration with an enhancement of sound quality. Kenwood has released its XR600-6DSP (MSRP $800),  a six-channel power plant that, through partnership with Automotive Data Solutions (ADS), upgrades select factory audio systems by supplanting, rather than supplementing the factory amplifier.

Sony displayed a demo vehicle featuring its RSXGS9 hi-resolution single-DIN head unit, which was reflective of where many car audio companies are going this year. This is largely thanks to a renewed interest in high quality sound from their customers. JL Audio, which again showcased off-site at the Palms Hotel and Casino, displayed its highly publicized C7 component speakers as part of this focus on quality sound. Attendees of the company's display were able to sit in a chair in the middle of a sound room to hear the speakers close-up. The C7 project was led by CEO and Chief Engineer, Lucio Proni, with a mission to create the finest-ever JL Audio component speakers.

Back at LVCC, but away from the North Hall, was Alpine, back in the mix with a new, innovative head unit, the iLX-107, an aftermarket in-dash receiver with wireless Apple CarPlay. The device utilizes direct Wi-Fi instead ofBlutooth to connect iPhones to the receiver, making it the first to market with the concept.

On the safety side, imageNEXT has parterned with American Road Products to bring OmniDRIVE, a connected car safety product, to the aftermarket in North America. The device that integrates 360ยบ surround view monitoring (SVM) and blind spot cameras with a 5-channel DVR with optional dash-cam or driver cam that can be connected with wi-fi to portable devices in a vehicle. The product will be available for purchase through American Road Products. Shipping is scheduled for the end of March, tentatively.  

While some years bear few significant developments, this year's CES and Las Vegas showcase proved the aftermarket is an exciting place to be, one that is finding new ways to both compete and surpass the OEM presence. 

Find out more about what happened in Las Vegas in the February issue of Mobile Electronics. 

8-12-2017 -- The second day of KnowledgeFest 2017 marked its first full day of workshops and manufacturer trainings, which was capped by a keynote presentation by world-renowned speaker and podcast host, Brett Gajda. The keynote, titled "Accelerate Your Success," discussed how business owners can better identify and attain success in their business and personal lives: through strong, conscious leadership. 
"If leadership is how you do your day-to-day, you need to show up as much as possible," Gajda said. "I started to think about how the man I want to be would eat a hamburger. It sounds silly but it worked. As I sat alone I thought about how I might eat that burger in front of a date I really liked. Leadership is about being conscious and present. Be the person you want to be. Slow down and enjoy the flavor."
The presentation included personal anecdotes along with inspirational quotes and concepts by well-known authors. One such concept was from the book, "The Compound Effect," by Darren Hardy, which discusses how the little things we do can make a huge impact over time. "The book explains that 3rd gear isn't sexy. 1st gear, when we take off, that's sexy. 5th gear, when we're at top speed, that's sexy. 3rd gear is stocking shelves and checking inventory. That's when we check out mentally. Most people aren't willing to go through 3rd gear," Gajda added.
Highlights of the day's seminars included seminar like High Res - The Next Big Thing, with instructors Bryan Schmitt and Matt Schaeffer. It discussed how high resolution audio products are changing the game for customers and allowing retailers the opportunity to reinvigorate a category recently seen to be on the decline.
MEA President Chris Cook hosted his first classes in many years, including the course, "Profitable Merchandising: Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) Optimization." In the course, he conveyed best practices from many years in 12-volt as a former employee of companies like Circuit City, where it was important to justify both cutting costs and keeping costs, like paying for employee lunches during the busiest work days.
The show floor also opened for the first time during the event, revealing both a host of new product offerings and new faces. Companies making their KnowledgeFest debut included off-road speaker and amplifier manufacturer Probox, Brazillian company SounDigital and startup dashcam maker, Waylens. 
KnowledgeFest continues through Monday, finishing with the 2017 Industry Awards on Monday at 6:30pm. Find out more about events and seminars at

As the event charged on, educators continued to bring their A-game by upping the ante with more seminars that helped enrich the livelihoods of the industry's finest.

In "Tuning Cars Part 2: The Next Step," Larry Frederick of Cerwin-Vega delivered what most were expecting with an honest, humor-filled seminar, complete with lots of expletives to enhance the experience for the installer-packed room.

The bulk of Frederick's lecture was focused on the tools of the trade needed to properly tune. Those tools included RTA's, oscilloscopes, and the CD=104 reference compilation, which contains a wide spectrum of music that can create the most balanced sound in a vehicle. He also emphasized the importance of using fewer speakers and subs whenever possible since "the more shit you put in a car, the more fucked-up it's going to sound," as he so eloquently put it.

Another popular seminar was Tim Parenti's "Face to Face Selling - The Forgotten Skill," part of the Sales Track. He emphasized the importance of looking at customers as ally's rather than adversaries you have to slay to make the sale. It avoids creating a combative atmosphere and instead establishes a collaborative element, getting them to see you as a friend that's helping them with a goal.

Palenti provided handouts that made the seminar interactive, asking attendees to write down responses to various objectives to focus on being helpful and positive rather than combative, rewarding them with suggestions rather than being defensive. He also broke down different personality types in terms of how people use their senses. For example, those who use hand gestures and require you to show them solutions are Visual, while those who make decisions based on how they feel are called Kinesthetic. As a sales person, it's important to recognize those types and match them with an appropriate response to best reach them.

Although the seminars are perhaps the biggest reason to come to KnowledgeFest from an educational standpoint, the heart and soul of the event seems to be taking place on the show floor, in the hallways and at the various bars and restaurants throughout the facility. This is thanks to the power of networking and friendship that is a staple of the 12-volt industry. Topics being spoken throughout the halls so far have been mostly positive, touting the wow-factor experienced by so many first-time attendees like Matt Cropper, a Top 12 Installer this year, who is in awe of how big the event is in scope.

Perhaps the biggest topic being mentioned, however, is that of the installer shortage and how the industry can solve it. One solution making the rounds is to make customers part of the business by bringing in the most dedicated either part-time or full-time depending on their current job status. At the least, making more channels to move up the ranks and cultivating the talent already in place is a popular sentiment, especially amongst some manufacturer representatives.

I for one am excited to see how the final day plays out, especially with tonight's industry awards.

4-9-2017 -- Thanks to the growing popularity of the event, and great weather, the turnouts for the seminars on the opening day of KnowledgeFest were high, with many rooms filled nearly to capacity. Retailers, installers and sales staff were in high spirits, eager to make the most of this year's spring training experience.
This was showcased particularly well in Eric Carter's "Word of 'Mouse': Dealing with Social Media & Online Reviews" course when, due to a computer delay, he took questions from the audience, creating an instant rapport with the audience where the air of positivity and excitement was palpable. The course tackled the best ways to enhance and maintain your store's social media presence with humorous anecdotes and situational-based how-to's like how to handle a bad review when it was accidentally clicked by a happy customer. 
Marcel Newell took retailers in a more serious direction by emphasizing how critical it is to budget every facet of your business to prevent unforeseen losses. The course, called "Budgeting Without Balding," took attendees through the specifics of creating and maintaining a budget, using it to measure their business performance and as a planning tool. One stand-out moment of the presentation was when Newell explained the importance of retailers taking time on their own away from the shop to study the financials and find new ways to maximize efficiency. "Budget vs. Actual is your score card as an entrepreneur. Get better over months at what you buy and what you sell. Understand the gap," Newell explained. "You guys are way smarter than anyone in finance. If you do this, you will improve your business. Plain and simple."
The manufacturer trainings featured memorable offerings as well, with JL Audio offering a tuning session with laptops available for each attendee to use. DD Audio went over a series of enclosure builds it conducted over a 30-day period to help educate its dealers on how best to build enclosures for its various subwoofers. Sony explained the ins and outs of its XAV-AX100 smartphone receiver, a popular head unit for the brand. 
Seminars and events will continue through Tuesday, April 11, and include a town hall presentation, networking night and the Mobile Electronics show, which offers retailers the chance to mingle with vendors and peers about new products and trends in the industry. If the first day is any indication, it's likely this show will be a huge success both for individual retailer's and manufacturers as well. 
Find out more about the show, including a complete schedule of seminars and events, at

8-21-2016 -- As the event took on its second day, courses continued with packed rooms full of eager-to-learn attendees. While topics like fabricating to factory fit and practical tuning for a profit went as expected to hit all points on the head, there were added bonuses to most courses that presenters could not have anticipated: great questions from attendees. As KnowledgeFest continues to grow, so does its potential for learning. It's become clear in the last few years that for attendees to maximize their experience, they need to participate in a more active manner. This is understood by presenters as well, as most make it clear that feedback is encouraged throughout sessions to help provide the best knowledge possible from each expert. 

One example of this took place in the course, "Business Roundtable: Leveraging New Opportunities in Safety and Driver Assistance." The course consisted of a panel that included two retailers, Brian Layton of Sound FX and Mark Millar of Westminster Speed and Sound, and two manufacturers of safety and driver assistance products, Steve Witt of American Road Products and Phil Maeda of Rydeen Mobile Electronics. During the session, the presenters made their case for why retailers should get on board with selling the product, how to select vendor partners and how to approach selling the category to customers. But several retailers in the audience voiced concerns and made suggestions throughout the seminar that turned it into more of a discussion and brainstorming session, which was a pleasant surprise to the panelists who welcomed the comments and worked to find solutions. 

"I don't want to offer a product to my customers that only lasts 18 months. I want it to last," said Dustin Daigle of Prestige Car Audio and Marine. "The problem for us is the liability of it. I don't want to be drilling holes in someone's car for a product when a new one comes out 6-8 months later."

Witt responded by saying, "That's no different than when we started Alpine back in 1979. Those first head units, you'd push eject and the tape went into the back seat. There are definite good and back products, but it's important to know the products and choose the best partner that works for you." Former Installer of the Year Jon Kowanetz also chimed in from the crowd. "One big benefit of a demo vehicle is not just to sell things you're one hundred percent confident in but to use it as a test vehicle for new products. Nothing in our vehicle was permanently installed. It's an opportunity to test things out without fully committing and not on a customer's car."

Others, including the panelists agreed with the solution and the course continued. This was a common occurrence in other courses, where attendees brought up relevant concerns, with panelists and other attendees helping to find solutions. The event will conclude with its final day of classes, manufacturer trainings and the Mobile Electronics Industry Awards on Monday, August 22. 


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