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4/1/2016, Mobile Electronics, April Issue -- Defining PowerBass is a particularly interesting exercise. The reason lies in the fact that PowerBass is more than your standard 12-volt manufacturer. PowerBass is the parent company of Image Dynamics (ID)—a storied, high-end car audio company with deep roots in as much retail as competition car audio. The old timers of the industry will remember ID for making some of the first car audio compression horns, the IDQ, and IDMAX subwoofers.

Despite merging in 2010, each brand has its own unique set of lines, its own website and its own identity in the marketplace. While they share some common staff, the gear and its respective positioning in the marketplace is kept quite intentionally separate.

One of the factors that makes PowerBass unique is the way their products come to market.

“PowerBass is a vertically integrated company,” said Brad Fair, sales director of PowerBass. “The [parent] owns the manufacturing facility in China, but the research and development goes on here in Ontario, California.”

The company also employs a pair of dedicated acoustic engineers, with Fair acting as the third acoustic engineer. “I do a lot of the follow up work,” he said “And I do a lot with the sales and marketing departments as well.”  

The Drawing Board

Defining the viability of prospective products starts with a team asking questions, both from the consumers as well as the retailers. Once that team starts comparing notes, the round table discussion evolves into the beginnings of a product. Can it be made in a certain target MSRP range? Is it unique enough to warrant production, and if so, is it an Image Dynamics product or a PowerBass product? All these questions get bandied about, refined, experimented with, dissected and refined again. Fair believes strongly in the importance of “taking a particular product, and making it ours.” Quality and market considerations invariably come into play.

In addition to establishing if a potential product concept is financially viable and sufficiently unique, Fair’s team assesses how it could be sold and marketed. Fair offered Bluetooth enabled products as a prime example. “Bluetooth is the biggest thing that’s been out there for the last year or two. We put our twist on to it. By that I mean price point, a feature, and so on.

For example, we now have a Bluetooth sound bar for UTV’s. There are a couple of other companies that have this already, however, the R&D is much different than what we do. We added a DSP processor to two of the new sound bars we just released, which makes a world of difference to the way it sounds at low and high volume. It’s pre-programmed to account for dips and peaks as well as a distortion limiter. It allows the user to turn it up louder than the competition, and sound better at low volume. We do the same thing when we develop a speaker, woofer or amplifier.”

To read the complete story, visit: https://issuu.com/mobileelectronics/docs/16me_april/42.

Theme for annual show and conference in Dallas focuses on keeping up with advancing technology, consumer patterns.

NORTH ANDOVER, MASS., June 27, 2016 (MEDIAWIRE) — The Mobile Electronics Association® (MEA) announced the theme for its 2016 KnowledgeFest® trade show and conference, scheduled for August 20-22, 2016 at the Hilton Anatole Resort & Convention Center in Dallas. "SHIFT" will be depicted on all show signs and artwork, signifying a call for industry professionals to take their expertise, drive and professionalism to a higher level.

The KnowledgeFest theme is chosen annually by MEA staff after carefully evaluating changing trends that directly affect the mobile electronics community. This year, the focus has been on evolving safety and driver assistance products and technologies.

"Carmakers are using significant advertising budget to promote safety features on new vehicles, and almost all of the available OEM options have aftermarket counterparts," said Chris Cook, MEA president. "Retailers can take advantage of a new profit center in which consumer value has been stoked high by OEM messaging."

The media is also heavily covering autonomous vehicle technology and how cars will make decisions based on input from vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) networks. The potential changes to the driving experience hold future opportunity for retailers and installation technicians. 

Celebrating its 20th year, KnowledgeFest will employ its own shift as well. The educational component of the conference will undergo a change from individual classes to three-class courses. Each course is intended to enhance the educational experience with graduated lessons from class to class, as well as a broader view of how the chosen curriculum works within the store structure.  Attendees who complete each course will receive wall certificates marking their achievement.

The "SHIFT" theme is visualized by a classic car gear shifter that also includes a button, presumably to employ nitrous oxide, which propels a vehicle faster by increasing the amount of oxygen available for combustion.  

“The shifter and its nitrous button are the perfect representation of how we need to keep up with opportunities that come from evolution in the vehicle space," concluded Cook. "Shifting gives us more headroom to be able to react to changing market conditions. Then we hit the button and put all of our resources into overdrive."

Registration for KnowledgeFest 2016 is currently open, and attendees will be able to select and reserve space in education courses in the coming weeks. For more information, please visit knowledgefest.org.  

About the Mobile Electronics Association®

The Mobile Electronics Association (MEA) strives to grow the mobile electronics industry by supporting its retailers, salespeople, technicians and manufacturers with integrated services built around the group’s 1100-plus members, its Mobile Electronics® magazine, KnowledgeFest® tradeshows, Partnership Program, point-of-sale system and data products. Through these offerings, Mobile Electronics delivers education, networking avenues, business and marketing resources, and promotes partnership between retailers and manufacturers to increase sales and profits. For more information, contact MEA at 85 Flagship Dr., Suite F, North Andover, MA 01845, telephone: 800-949-6372, or visit join-mea.com.

8-22-2016 -- Since 1983, Custom Audio in Erie, Penn. has been a successful woman-owned business and boasts 5,000 square feet of space. While Sondralee Orengia founded the company, her original business partner decided it wasn’t for him. “At the time I was going to college studying accounting and computer science and I wasn’t really interested in owning a business or running it,” Orengia said. When her business partner asked for help, she said yes. “I’m from a family of entrepreneurs. I think it’s always been in my blood.” Now, the company has seven employees and one location where Orengia strives to provide the best service possible while staying current with the times.

While she didn’t initially intend to get involved in the mobile electronics industry, Orengia was passionate about music. “I installed my first stereo system in my car,” she said. “I didn’t know anything, but I have the passion for learning. My grandparents were teachers and professors, very highly educated and my mother is as well, and that learning, wanting to learn and enjoying change, that’s what I think drives me. It’s an ever-changing industry and in 30 years it’s changed so dramatically and people have to continue to learn and learn to change.”

Orengia believes in the power of presentation to help draw in customers. “We have a really pretty shop,” she said. Because the business resides in a neighborhood that is mostly middle to upper class, customer expectation is much higher and so is Orengia’s. “The store has a nice presentation when they walk in—clean, organized, the displays work. That’s incredibly important in presentation. I always use the analogy if you go to buy a new car, the car lot doesn’t have dirty cars. They are polished, clean, look good, smell good, run good. You don’t go to a car dealership expecting to see a dirty car.”

While Custom Audio continues to be a successful 12-volt shop, Orengia faces a different kind of daily challenge—that of being a woman business owner in a male-dominated industry. “32 years ago I was at the Consumer Electronics show in Chicago and I was one of the few women there. The only ones there were the girls at the booths in beautiful dresses and high heels and they were eye candy,” she said. “There were very few women in the industry. My mom raised me as a person, not a woman, who could do anything and accomplish anything. That really struck me that there were so few women at the show.”

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Dancing With Giants

By Jamie Sorcher

The glitter and glory of CES has come and gone, but there’s nothing like a look in the rearview mirror to assess the big trends and to gain some perspective.

This year’s CES was its most massive yet with a near capacity crowd of more than 170,000 attendees, 3,800 companies and, of course, the expanding venues (East, West and South Halls) with 24.7 million net square feet of exhibit space. For someone wanting to see it all, it would require visiting 95 exhibitors each day of the show from the moment it opened until it closed.

Also new this year was the recent name change by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) that hosts the show to the broader title of Consumer Technology Association.

“Innovation and expansion are hallmarks of the consumer technology industry and our association—and as our industry changes, so must we,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association. “Our membership and the consumer technology sector have grown and evolved to engage almost every major industry segment and America’s burgeoning startup economy, touching almost every part of consumers’ lives. Our new name—the Consumer Technology Association—more accurately represents this growth and the excitement and innovative spirit of the industry we represent.”

The industry getting bigger and broader has brought more than a name change. The larger scope of the show has also seen more companies decide to show off the grid. This year a number of companies exhibited away from the main show floors including Harman, Rockford Fosgate, Orca, DD Audio, JL Audio, elettromedia, NAV-TV, and ADS (iDatalink).

"We have taken the approach that we want to bring technology in—so how do you cap that?" said Karen Chupka, senior vice president CES and corporate business strategist for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). "We want to create solutions and, as big as the show is getting, make it easy to help people find what they are looking for. When companies go off site, it makes it more difficult to do that."

Read the rest of this feature by [clicking here]

2-1-2017, Mobile Electronics -- For 50 years, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), has delivered on its promise to showcase the latest in electronic technology. In the summer of 1967, its first year, the event hosted 117 exhibitors featuring transistor radios, stereos and black and white televisions. The next four decades saw innovations like cassettes, CDs, DVDs and plasma televisions take center stage. Today, one concept has dominated the show floor like no other: a fully connected life, harnessing the power of handheld digital devices and pursuing the dream of autonomous driving.

For the 12-volt industry, many of the innovations on display at this year's CES in Las Vegas won't have much of an impact on a retailer's bottom line. However, in the North Hall, which houses the automakers and 12-volt industry manufacturers, there were a number of trends that could have a significant impact in the near future.

Connectivity and autonomous driving were promoted with purpose with companies like Ford, Hyundai and Toyota, all eager to showcase what the roads will look like in the future. Connected driving products on display, such as Alpine's wireless CarPlay head unit, offered a more practical view of that future. Chris Cook, president of the Mobile Electronics Association, discussed the impact connected driving will have for the entire automotive industry in the Connect2Car panel during the four-day event.

"Consumers want to be able to connect their device with the car confidently. By 2020, 250 million cars will be connected to the Internet. What does this mean? It means the vehicles will be connected to the Internet and everything else. This is a good thing for all of us," Cook said. "Consumers are demanding to be in the forefront of the vehicle. When they're picking up their used Mustang, they usually want more than the OEM offered at the time it was sold. They want the latest technology. So to connect with confidence, automakers are responding. They are working to upgrade new vehicles with the latest aftermarket technologies."

With the safety category being one of the primary catalysts for this trend (all new light vehicles in 2018 will require backup cameras by law), automakers and the aftermarket are pushing for ways to fully integrate the latest technology into cars for an all-in-one solution. That doesn't account for the rest of the vehicles on the road, which average 11 years in age.

For all those in attendance, the aftermarket's response to consumer demand and OEM competition seemed clear: innovate.  

An Integrated Necessity

Regardless of the excitement generated by a new concept car or gadget, time has proven that the demands of consumers are what drive a successful innovation of new products. One category that the aftermarket has jumped on this year is high-resolution audio, which is more easily attainable for the average listener than ever thanks to an innovation in DSP technology.

Several companies have announced new DSP amplifiers that are designed to work as solutions for OEM sound systems. The Kenwood eXcelon XR600-6DSP is designed to capture signals before they reach the factory amplifier, resulting in cleaner output and retention of factory notifications, according to the company. The device works in cooperation with the iDatalink Maestro AR integration module, which links into the CAN bus of specific vehicles.

"I'm looking for the new products and looking forward to seeing some of the OEM stuff like built-in technologies and what we need to do to integrate with them," said installer Shaughnessy Murley from Visions Electronics as he began to walk the show floor. "I think OEM integration is going to be a necessity moving forward. You get in there, unplug the factory amp, plug their module in and then it's a blank slate. Integrating telematics in the vehicle will be a big thing, too."

Audiocontrol has also joined the OEM integration trend by making three of its recent products compatible with the Mastro AR. The DM-608 and DM-810 processors and the newly announced D6-1200 six-channel amplifier are all compatible with the ADS product.

"Hats off to ADS for what they're doing. For somebody who wants to keep the door chime muted without blowing your ears out, it'll make the interface that much easier," said Chris Kane, National Sales Manager of Audiocontrol.

In addition to the OEM integration trend, manufacturers focused efforts on what makes the 12-volt industry stand apart from OEM offerings. It discovered that clients are still eager to upgrade their sound systems to the best on the market, especially if high-end, high-resolution products are affordable. Sony's solution was on display in a demo vehicle featuring its RSXGS9 high-resolution single-DIN head unit and GS1621C component speakers.

"With the hi-res frequency range, you're basically getting more head room in your music. You don't get the sharp cut-off in the higher frequencies at 20K-ish. We've got about 60K going through this. It's a really good-sounding, smooth system," said Kris Bulla, National Product Trainer, Sony Car Audio. "We're all about hi-res this year. This GS system is the hi-res that you want to hear. It provides studio-quality sound."

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Safety and Driver Assistance becomes its own category, separate from security

NORTH ANDOVER, MASS. – April 20, 2016 – The Mobile Electronics Group has made a change to the vendor category of this year’s Mobile Electronics Industry Awards. The Safety and Retention category will now be split into two categories: Vehicle Security and Convenience, and Safety and Driver Assistance. The change enables industry participants to recognize companies that have excelled in providing vehicle and content protection as well as companies that help drivers stay safe and informed on the road.

“Each year we take an in-depth look at the awards makeup to ensure that it is in step with the current trends and practices of the mobile electronics industry,” said Solomon Daniels, program administrator. “Last year we noticed that there were several companies—those that solely produce safety or driver information products—that were not adequately represented. We’re taking steps this year to ensure that they have a proper place in the awards process.”

Prior to this change, safety was a subcategory of vehicle security, stemming from the fact that alarm and remote start manufacturers were also the driving force behind the industry’s first security-related features, such as GPS tracking, roadside assistance, and stolen vehicle recovery.

Today, safety has evolved into products and services that arm the driver with information to improve road awareness, increase efficiency, and minimize mishaps. This includes maneuvering aid cameras, dash cameras, radar detection, and the emerging line of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) products that provide lane departure and crash warnings.

As part of the awards, industry participants will vote for nominated companies in five categories. The company with the highest number of votes will earn the Top Vendor honor in that category and be eligible to win Vendor of the Year. Vendors have until May 6 to nominate their companies for inclusion in the awards process.

6-27-2016, June Issue Tech Feature -- We have covered a number of technical and fabrication related topics so far in this series. Moving from the idea of fitting a subwoofer in a footwell space, we are now going to look at another stealth way to integrate audio equipment: the false floor. I have the privilege of working with a master of false floor building, Bing Xu. Rather than share with you the details of building a false floor that I have learned over the years from Bing, I thought I would have him share it directly. Bing does a masterful job of fitting equipment into the confined space of a spare tire well. He has a lot to share on the subject, so enjoy part one of this two-part article.

Introduction

I still vividly remember my first ever experience with aftermarket car audio. It was the summer of 1995 and I—along with most of my friends—had just gotten my driver’s license and obtained my first vehicle. One day, a good buddy showed me a catalog. In it were all kinds of gadgets and doodads that I had never seen before. From speakers and subwoofers, to amplifiers and even—gasp! Compact Disc players! My friend proudly pointed out the various products he had ordered, and proclaimed that he was going to install it all himself and make his Nissan Pathfinder sound absolutely heroic. Of course, being a good friend, I naturally told him he was doing nothing but courting disaster. I told him that car audio installation is something that can only be achieved by professionals with years and years of experience, and it was more likely that he would transform his beloved SUV into a roman candle and I would be there to laugh at the ashes. Yet, a couple of weeks later, I found myself sitting in his car, rolling down the street and blasting Bruce Springsteen, no doubt annoying the entire neighborhood with our dual 12-inch Infinity Kappa subwoofers in a pre-fabricated ported enclosure. 

I was hooked instantly and started planning the system in my own vehicle—of course, one that would be a billion times more impressive than his. As I slowly saved up to accomplish my dream, I hung out with my friend a lot and paid attention to the advantages and disadvantages of his design. After a while, it quickly became apparent that by far the biggest hindrance his system caused was the gargantuan sub box eating up about half of his cargo space. Every time we wanted to put our mountain bikes in the back, he had to unplug the damn thing and leave it at home. We also had to be careful what we put in the car for fear of puncturing the woofer cone. After a while, I began to wonder about ways of having a full-blown system in a vehicle without compromising cargo space and daily usability.

Read the rest HERE. 

6-1-2017, Mobile Electronics Magazine -- As a 12-year-old, Jeremiah Mojica loved music. Like most kids his age, he was looking for something to become enamored with. He became a musician. As a bass player and guitarist, Mojica played everything from Hard Rock and Metal to Reggae. Soon enough, as he worked at his parents' retail store, GNC Customs in Goshen, Ind., he found he liked something even more: car audio.

"Our parents had a business in 2002 and we wanted to specialize in something. It was a hobby at first. We had the radio shop and I wanted a stereo in my car. I wanted something loud and cool," Mojica said. "I was a teenager at the time. It segued into us wanting to be a better shop and me being a better installer."

During an early install at the age of 14, Mojica, who had little experience up to this point, had just finished installing a system for a client when the man approached him with a request. "I didn't know what I was doing. When I was done, the guy asked if I could make it cleaner. From then on I realized that there's more. There's always been more," Mojica said. "The insecurity of it shows that I know I can be better. It's important to know that you can try and mess up but just start over and try to do something different again."

As a Top 50 Installer, Mojica has his chance to show the industry the results of that early mistake, which includes further education at an installation institute in Orlando, Fla., as well as an MECP certification. Beyond that, Mojica knew the value of continuous improvement, which allowed him to find his own voice as a fabricator.

"I like to have a plan before I go in. I do some sketches before I start and ask a client what they want to do with their vehicle. It doesn't make sense to do a crazy truck build if they're using it for groceries," Mojica said. "Every part of an install that I do is an extension of who I am. I'm meticulous but also very easy going. I love Metal music but also love Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz. I knew that when I was younger I wanted to be artistic and express myself in some way. That's why I started with music, so I can express myself. I didn't realize that being a fabricator does the same thing."

Read the rest of the story HERE.

NORTH ANDOVER, MASS. – March 21, 2019 – The Mobile Electronics Association (MEA) today announced last weekend’s KnowledgeFest™ Indianapolis event had a strong showing from both retailers and manufacturers.

In its fifth year, the 2019 event held at the downtown Indiana Convention Center boasted a sold-out show floor with 50 exhibitors and 60,000 square feet of exhibit space. There was a strong showing of new exhibitors from new companies. New product categories offered new business opportunities for retailers, while the wide-open market with Indianapolis at its center presented exhibiting manufacturers with an opportunity for business development. Most key companies from the 12-volt specialty industry had a presence.

“We had great turn-out from dealers for Friday’s ‘Beer & Business” kick-off,” said Chris Cook, MEA president. “Exhibitors reported strong traffic over all three days of the event. Even before the close, many expressed they were extremely satisfied with the event. After onsite space selection, we left Indy with strong booth sales for next March’s Indy KnowledgeFest. We’re coming back! My message to 12-volt manufacturers is this: ‘If you weren’t in Indy this year, be there next year! Don’t write-off this market.”

With 20% year-over-year growth in Indy over the past five years, MEA reported attendance totaling more than 1000 with more than 775 retailer and distributor attendees.

“MEA thanks Davis Distribution for its awesome support of our Indy event,” said Cook. “Working with their manufacturer partners, all did an exceptional job helping to drive retailer attendance and business.”

KnowledgeFest 2019 concludes with its Dallas event: August 9-11 at the Dallas Convention Center.

2020 KnowledgeFest Dates:

  • Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, California, February 7-9, 2020
  • Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis, Indiana, March 27-29, 2020
  • NEW for 2020! Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Florida, May 15-17, 2020
  • Dallas Convention Center, Dallas, Texas, August 21-23, 2020

About KnowledgeFest

KnowledgeFest is now coast to coast. Its four regional trade-only events cover the eastern, southeastern, central and western US and Canada. KnowledgeFest combines a tradeshow floor with educational programming and training for dealers. KnowledgeFests are the only industry events dedicated to the mobile specialist, the installing dealer. For more information and to register to attend, go to www.knowledgefest.org. For exhibitor sales, contact Kerry Moyer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.." style="color: #000000;">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About the Mobile Electronics Association

Mobile Electronics Association (MEA) is a trade association comprised of installing dealers and product vendors dedicated to serving the needs of the mobile electronics specialist industry. MEA owns and produces KnowledgeFest®, regional trade-only industry events that combine educational programming and vendor training with a trade show floor. MEA owns and publishes the monthly Mobile Electronics® magazine, which is the industry’s #1 resource, as well as other digital media, including websites and the industry’s e-newsletter Hotwire. MEA provides software and data-driven services to vendors and retailers.

 

NORTH ANDOVER, MASS. – March 11, 2019 – The Mobile Electronics Association (MEA) today announced KnowledgeFest™, in its second year at the Long Beach Convention Center, marked another success:

  • Attendance grew to more than 1500 attendees, including more than 900 retailer and 100 distributer attendees;
  • The number of exhibitors increased to 53; occupying more than 70,000 square feet of exhibit space;
  • 30 Hours of educational workshops; and
  • A record-setting 68 hours of manufacturer trainings.

“Attendance-wise, this year in Long Beach our audience of mobile specialists was on par with last August’s KnowledgeFest Dallas, which is our long-standing flagship event now in its tenth year,” stated Chris Cook, MEA president. “This year’s increase in the number of exhibitors maxed-out the Long Beach show floor in its present configuration. We have room to expand for next year, and we’re planning some interesting new things to take advantage of that space.”

This weekend, March 15-17, KnowledgeFest sets its sights on Indianapolis. The Friday through Sunday event at the Indiana Convention Center brings its industry-recognized educational and training program and trade show floor to the Indy marketplace.

“2019 marks our fifth year in Indy. Yet, some in our industry still sell the Indy market short,” according to Cook. “KnowledgeFest Indy continues to grow with year-over-year growth. Attendee pre-registration is up more than 30 percent this year. Indy covers the market east of the Mississippi: the east coast and near east—cities, such as Pittsburgh and Cleveland. It's dealers from these markets who don’t show up for CES but are coming to Indy. There are manufacturers who recognize the value. After several expansions, our 2019 show floor is sold out.”

Kicking-off Indy, after a full day of educational sessions and manufacturer trainings, the show floor opens Friday at 4 PM for “Beer & Business”. This business-first event provides dealers and vendors with a relaxed setting to meet, see first-hand new products and do some business.

KnowledgeFest 2019 concludes with its Dallas event: August 9-11 at the Dallas Convention Center.

2020 KnowledgeFest Dates:

  • Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, California, February 7-9, 2020
  • Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis, Indiana, March 27-29, 2020
  • NEW for 2020! Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Florida, May 15-17, 2020
  • Dallas Convention Center, Dallas, Texas, August 21-23, 2020

About KnowledgeFest

KnowledgeFest is now coast to coast. Its four regional trade-only events cover the eastern, southeastern, central and western US and Canada. KnowledgeFest combines a tradeshow floor with educational programming and training for dealers. KnowledgeFests are the only industry events dedicated to the mobile specialist, the installing dealer. For more information and to register to attend, go to www.knowledgefest.org. For exhibitor sales, contact Kerry Moyer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.." style="color: #000000;">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About the Mobile Electronics Association

Mobile Electronics Association (MEA) is a trade association comprised of installing dealers and product vendors dedicated to serving the needs of the mobile electronics specialist industry. MEA owns and produces KnowledgeFest®, regional trade-only industry events that combine educational programming and vendor training with a trade show floor. MEA owns and publishes the monthly Mobile Electronics® magazine, which is the industry’s #1 resource, as well as other digital media, including websites and the industry’s e-newsletter Hotwire. MEA provides software and data-driven services to vendors and retailers.

 

Boston (4/1/2016) – The Mobile Electronics Group (formerly Mobile Electronics Retailers Association) announced today that the automotive electronics aftermarket industry is expected to grow by more than 18% during the next three years due to the high demand of installable products.

April Fools!  - but wouldn’t it be nice if it was true? What are you doing to grow your business while maintaining a high level of quality customer service?

Join more than 650 industry leaders coming together next weekend in Indianapolis at KnowledgeFest Spring Training to find out

Register Here

Mobile Electronics July Issue, July 13, 2016 -- In the business world, they say it takes an average of five years for a new business to turn a profit. In that time, the business must establish itself into the company it will be for the rest of its existence. The job of the owner/manager during this time is to work out the kinks with processes, employees, sales, execution and customer presentation.

For a 12-volt retailer, those elements are easier said than done. But thanks to the way industry insiders support one another with suggestions and communicating best practices, the amount of failures the company must endure is significantly lowered. All that the shop needs to be successful rests on how much the owner/manager and employees are willing to learn through communication.

This year's Top 12 Retailer class is filled with people who have learned lessons both ways. Those lessons allow them to enhance their chances of not only surviving times of economic hardship, but completely bypassing them to remain in a state of constant growth. Take Richard Grimm, owner of Cartunes in Atlanta, Ga., who has been in the industry since 1972. Over that time he's seen multiple recessions, an oil crisis and has worked for other companies that have gone under. Thankfully, he had people he could turn to for advice, which he used to survive some of the harshest economic climates in the history of the country.

On the opposite side of the spectrum sits Josh Mojica, co-owner of GNC Customs in Goshen, Ind. Growing up in the family business, Mojica learned a great deal about not just 12-volt, but business in general from his parents, who operated several business ventures that included car audio, furniture and jewelry. While his background is different from Grimm, it proves one thing is for sure in 12-volt: the more you know, the better off you are.

Relative Foundations

Active in the 12-volt industry since 1972, Grimm of Cartunes has always had a passion for music and cars. From his early days of installing 8-track radios in a parking lot part-time, Grimm has gone the distance in the industry by becoming a specialist in dealer work and car audio. "I was sidetracked into the cell phone business in the early 90s, made a lot of money but it suddenly ended and we had to start all over in the mobile electronics and audio business. We did it the right way, survived it all, and the rest is history," Grim said.

One of Grimm's biggest strengths was hiring people smarter than he to represent the company. This strategy largely contributed to the shop's specialist reputation, helping the business survive turbulent times over the years, including an oil crisis and multiple recessions. "My biggest mistake was hiring people who were not smarter than me," he said.

In fact, survival is something he prides himself on, given those aforementioned times of crisis. "There are so many recessions that I've survived that it's difficult to choose one. Simply put, surviving is what I'm proudest of in my career."

Dan Ungaro, owner of Soundscape Car Audio in Plano, Texas, started from scratch in 12-volt, not knowing a thing when he began at Circuit City in 2000. "I worked there for about four and a half years learning the basics of everything from radio to remote start and video installs. From there I went to Tweeter and was given the space to experiment with custom work which revitalized my passion for car audio," he said. "A few years later I went to work for Car Toys where I did mostly custom work and some wiring mixed in. In 2009, I left Car Toys to start my own shop under the name Ungaro Custom Designs with the idea that I could be a custom shop for other car audio shops. This didn't work well, so I opened a retail location in 2010 under the name Soundscape. Over the last six years, I have moved from doing most of the sales and install to mostly sales and management."

While the experience of going through the gambit of jobs over the years likely taught Ungaro some huge lessons, it's not the only path forward. Sometimes family can provide lessons in a more formulated way.

"I am the oldest of three sons that run GNC Customs. I did whatever our dad asked us to do," said Josh Mojica, co-owner of GNC Customs. "As I gained experience I took over most installations as my brother honed in his fabrication skills. Now with a crew of six, my duties are mostly managerial and sales related."

Read the rest of the story HERE.

5-26-2017 -- Mobile Electronics magazine has officially announced the Top 50 Retailers and Top 50 Installers of 2017. The list includes repeats from past years like installer Charles Brazil from First Coast Auto Creations and retailer JML Audio of St. Louis. 

The list was selected during a judging process after retailers and installers followed specific instructions on how to either nominate themselves or others for the Top 50. The process will continue with voting to determine the Top 12 and eventually culminate with several awards, including Retailer of the Year at the 2017 Industry Awards, which takes place on Monday, August 14 in Dallas, Texas. 

For a complete list of the Top 50 Retailers and Top 50 Installers, visit the Industry Awards website at: http://meindustryawards.com/?page_id=2312.

Mobile Electronics announced final numbers for its new KnowledgeFest event, Spring Training 2015, held last month in Indianapolis. The event, which combined a 30-manufacturer exhibit floor with dealer training and education, attracted over 480 attendees from 33 states, including the east and “near” east metro centers, and two Canadian provinces.

“We added Indy as a second KnowledgeFest for three reasons,” said Chris Cook, president of Mobile Electronics. “First, manufacturers weren’t seeing many dealers from east of the Mississippi in January; second, to maintain their competitive edge, 12-volt specialists want and need training and education; and, early April is a great time to deliver training on new products manufacturers are just starting to ship.”

With April’s Indy event in the book, Mobile Electronics is now focused on its second KnowledgeFest in Dallas August 15-17 at the Hilton Anatole. This “original” KnowledgeFest is the largest networking and educational event for mobile electronics retailers in the United States. Its objective is to provide peer-based and professional training to owners, managers and installation technicians through classes, a tradeshow and focused networking events.

“Since acquiring KnowledgeFest, every year we have grown and improved upon the event,” said Cook. “For 2015, we’re returning to having a keynote speaker to kick-off our Town Hall Meeting. Tim Parenti, president of MVP Dynamics, will address the topic of ‘Attitude – The Power to Direct or Misdirect.’ The keynote is sponsored by K40.”

Mobile Electronics has issued a “call for speakers.” For those wanting to be part of the KnowledgeFest conference program, go to knowledgefest.org/call-for-speakers. Additional program enhancements will be announced in the coming weeks. For more information and to register to attend, please visit knowledgefest.org.

12-28-2017 Mobile Electronics -- With the new year just around the corner, there are plenty of things worth remembering about 2017. Among them are stories about the people that help make the 12-volt industry so great. Here are the top three most read articles of 2017:

1. May 2017 Bird of Prey – Osprey Boston Truck & Van : https://issuu.com/mobileelectronics/docs/17me_may_for_digital/30

2. October 2017 Partner for All – Automotive Data Systems: https://issuu.com/mobileelectronics/docs/17me_october_new/40

3. April 2017 Rebel Monarchy – KingPin Car & Marine Audio:  https://issuu.com/mobileelectronics/docs/17me_april_for_digital/28 

The Mobile Electronics Group announced it has added Alpine Electronics as a Diamond Vendor Partner. Alpine Electronics of America, based in Torrance, California, becomes the seventh brand to become a Diamond Partner for 2015. It joins other Diamond Vendors: Focal, HD Radio, Kicker, Metra Electronics, SiriusXM and Sony Mobile. DD Audio, Scosche Industries and Memphis Car Audio round-out this select group of vendors as Platinum Partners.

Partnership is by invitation only and Mobile Electronics expects its vendor partners to support its Mission, which is to “support the specialist channel to deliver exceptional customer experiences”; and, to support its efforts to educate retailers, improve their businesses, and support their marketing campaigns; thus, increasing the professionalization of the retail sector and increasing industry sales at higher profit margins.

“Mobile Electronics group is dedicated to the success of the 12-volt independent retailers, and we are glad to be a Diamond Partner to help support their work in the important specialist channel,” said Mike Anderson, assistant vice president of sales, Alpine Electronics of America, Inc.

Mobile Electronics’ Vendor Partners gain direct marketing access to the group’s top-level Diamond and Platinum Dealer members along with numerous branding opportunities in front of Mobile Electronics’ audience using the group’s resources. Vendor Partners receive added value through recognition as sponsors at KnowledgeFest. And, Partners get “Enterprise Savings” off their total annual buy with Mobile Electronics, including additional savings on KnowledgeFest show space; advertising in Mobile Electronics magazine, Hotwire newsletter and on ME-Mag.com; and participation in the Mobile Electronics Point-of-Sale (POS) Reports Program.  

More vendors are expected to come onboard as partners at Mobile Electronics’ upcoming KnowledgeFest Spring Training event April 11-13 in Indianapolis. For more information about this educational event and tradeshow, please visit knowledgefest.org.

Mobile Electronics® announced a new business partnership with BrandSphere™. BrandSphere offers an easy-to-implement, custom-branded mobile app that helps retailers and manufacturers build deeper connections with their customers and maintain those connections for lifelong customer engagement.

“We’re happy to add BrandSphere as a business partner and to offer their mobile application technology to our retailer members and manufacturer partners,” said Chris Cook, president of Mobile Electronics. “Consistent with Mobile Electronics’ mission, this is another marketing and business resource that can help the specialist channel deliver an exceptional customer experience. Customers get instant access to everything they need, while retailers and manufacturers get insightful data to strengthen customer relationships and improve communication.”

BrandSphere is used to create and manage branded Smart Product Identities™ (SPI) for retailers and manufacturers. Consumers can effortlessly connect with product information and resources they need by claiming product ownership and accessing the related SPI’s in a free custom-branded mobile app. Each time a product owner interacts with an SPI, the retailer or manufacturer gains valuable insight into customer interests, product performance, buying trends and much more. Targeted in-app interactive communication provides data-driven insight to improve customer engagement, drive brand loyalty and even guide product evolution.

BrandSphere is demonstrating its mobile platform at the KnowledgeFest® show and conference this weekend in Dallas at Booth #409 on the show floor. Mobile Electronics is at Booth #239.

Since it’s both baseball season and a time when many retailers are hiring seasonal staff, I thought it would be a good moment to discuss an important topic. In a baseball club, much like any workplace, a certain balance must be maintained, not just for players to do their jobs and play to their full potential, but also for the players to get along with each other and with management.

In the film Moneyball, Brad Pitt stars as real-life Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane, who in 2002 was tasked with getting a low-budget, hand-to-mouth ball club to compete with big-budget teams like the New York Yankees. To do this, he had to think outside the box financially and do something socially that he had never done in four previous seasons with the club: talk to his players.

With all the hustle and bustle involved in running a retail shop, it’s understandable that an owner might be too busy to take a minute to get feedback from employees. Much like a baseball team, a staff requires the attention of management, but in an encouraging, rather than critical, way. A recent interview on Forbes.com with John Kotter, chief innovation officer at leadership strategy firm Kotter International, made clear that fear in the workplace acts like a “burning platform,” forcing employees to react. But that reaction style of management only works for so long, until employee energy and enthusiasm starts to wear out.  

“The reality is there are real risks associated with this negative stuff. People may jump off the platform, but they get tired, or they break an arm, to play out that metaphor. What we’re finding is that psychologists are coming out and saying that the positive stuff will maintain motivation over time much stronger and better than the negative stuff,” Kotter said. “Sure, the negative can get you going. You see a bullet coming at you, boom! You’ll get off of your chair. But in terms of maintaining energy and motivation over a couple of years, somebody just running from bullets doesn’t work.”

In Moneyball, tension in the clubhouse is visible when the team is losing. Players either keep to themselves and look at it as only a job, or they are unruly, joyfully dancing on tables to music, even after a loss.

That tension seems to come from the lack of positive reinforcement from Beane, and from the fact that the only interactions the players have with him are in the form of yelling when they lose, or silence due to his absence from the clubhouse most of the time. To clarify, positive reinforcement is the act of presenting a pleasant stimulus to entice a person to repeat a desirable action.

To the customer, it’s obvious when employees are unhappy. Energy levels are low, their mannerisms and speech patterns are less enthusiastic, and the work itself tends to suffer. Likewise, customers can tell when employees are happy.

Aside from the standard monetary compensation and benefits like a 401K, medical and dental insurance, rewarding good behavior can be easy and inexpensive, according to an article by two professors at the Harvard Business Review.

The article states that employees who strive to create a better future for themselves are, in their words, “thriving.” These employees aren’t just content in their jobs; they are proactive, engaged and highly energized. This type of employee was found to demonstrate a 16 percent better performance than their peers, and they were 32 percent more committed to the organization. They also missed considerably less work and had fewer doctor visits.

Whatever your method, knowing the strengths and improvement areas of your staff is vital for gauging what they can and can’t do. When you do need them to push, remember to reinforce their hard work with a reward, whether it’s a verbal compliment, a high-five, a simple thank you, or a form of compensation.

When Billy Beane finally discovered how useful interacting with his players was to their performance and overall happiness, he visited the clubhouse more often, spoke to individuals about specific improvements they could make, and formed strong working relationships with as many as he could. Doing this in your shop might just result in a metaphorical home run. 

Better Than Yesterday

To break out of a stalling career mindset six years ago, Matt Schaeffer made the conscious choice to challenge himself every day. Today, he stands atop the 12-volt industry as Installer of the Year.  

Words by Ted Goslin
Photos by Tim Causa

Not everyone knows what they want to be when they grow up. Some wander the world in search of a dream job with no particular focus, hoping that some mystical force will guide them into their ideal life. But it doesn’t work that way. Some people never find their calling and wind up taking whatever career path is most convenient. And then there’s Matt Schaeffer.


At the age of 11, Schaeffer received his first four-wheeler and fell in love. Cars became a passion off the bat for the future installer, who learned quickly what his favorite hobby and future career would become.
“I became obsessed with building it, customizing it, making it my own. I even got into making panels and customizing my four-wheeler,” Schaeffer said. “Then when I was in high school I got an Eclipse GSX. Using the mentality I had with my four-wheeler, I customized the GSX with panels, fabricating and installing.”


It was during this time period in the early 2000s that master fabricators like Dave “Fishman” Rivera, Steve Brown and Chris Yato were making the rounds in various magazines, showing off their work to a new generation of 12-volt enthusiasts. The build articles featured things like how to build fiberglass panels, Schaeffer recalled. “I would reverse engineer my parts from those articles to figure out what I wanted to build,” Schaeffer said. “For me, I fell in love with building, making things my own. I built my Eclipse to be a show car on the East Coast. It won Best in Show at the Funk Master Flex show in Daytona. It showed the artistic place where my passion lies and I knew that’s where I wanted to take my career.”


After high school, Schaeffer sought out a school to learn his craft. But instead of heading straight for 12-volt, he started with the basics at the Universal Technical Institute (UTI) in Orlando, Fla., where he received an education in automotive repair. “I learned transmissions, suspension, all the things I wasn’t versed in. As I’m installing something in a car, I’d want to be more versatile and be able to diagnose problems in a car,” Schaeffer said. “I had a lot of fun there and use a lot of what I learned now with wheels, tires, lift kits and performance upgrades. It’s something I hold dear to my heart that’s a nice change of pace from doing custom installs and head units. In my opinion, Universal Technical Institute would be the college for our industry.”


Upon graduating in 2006, Schaeffer attended the Installer Institute, which lasted about two weeks. He then went to a week-long training with his idol, Dave “Fishman” Rivera, called “Fish Camp.” The camp opened his eyes to what is possible with fabrication.
“That was the first time I realized how easy it could be. Fish made it look so easy and effortless,” Schaeffer recalled. “Seeing him layer different pieces together, this piece into that piece, I never realized how easy it could be. I just looked at it and thought, ‘so that is how they do it.’”

Click here for the full article.

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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