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1782 Views 3 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  keepthepast
Car stereo revs into mass market
Facts are facts, and one fact that industry leaders are dead-sure of, is that Clarion, JVC, Kenwood, Pioneer, Sanyo and Sony account for more than 50 percent of car audio sales in the United States.
According to Bill Matthies of the Verity Group Inc., a noted industry analyst, that figure is somewhere above 50 and below 60 percent.
See also: How to Install Speakers in a Car
So what are these guys doing right? What kinds of products will we see from them this year? And are there any similarities among them in product mix or distribution?

As most of the industry already knows, Sony, Pioneer and Kenwood are aggressively driving the car CD category with lower priced, multi-feature units. Trunk changers can be purchased this year in the $300 range and rumor has it that in-dash units may be slashed to about $300 by the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) next month.
Those companies have good reason to be aggressive. Industry analysts echo that the CD category of product, more than any other, will account for big dollar sales this year.
Even a limited distributor like Alpine is playing hardball with CD equipment that can easily be added-on to OEM systems.
As we reported in HFD during March, the Japanese are buying eight changers to every one in-dash unit, and consumer research conducted by Blaupunkt in Germany, shows that the same ratio of sales could be in store for Europe and the United States.
But many manufacturers have told HFD that as long as car CD's cost more than $200, they won't have the kind of market penetration that the home audio category currently enjoys.
So, to boost CD-related sales, a full line of components is being marketed by many of the larger autosound suppliers. The addition of cellular phones to the autosound mix only heightens the one-stop resource that manufacturers can offer retailers and retailers, in turn, can offer to the man-on-the-street.
Most major autosound companies are now getting first reactions on products introduced in January.
Pioneer, which has factories in Ohio and California that make autosound components, is especially high on its line of injection-molded polypropylene car speakers, which have given them the number one worldwide market share in that category, according to company vice president of marketing Michael E. Townsen. What are The Speaker Sizes in My Car | Speaker Size for My Car
Townsen is encouraged by digital sound reaching the forefront of autosound since, "the polypropylene cones are better capable of handling the demands of digital sources than are paper cones."

"Using the injection molded process, we're able to perfectly control the thickness of the cone, so we actually get a much flatter and smoother response."
The company has addressed reports that pull-out CDs may develop tracking problems if bounced around by expanding its line-up of detachable face units. Those units, along with a new Pioneer changer that will debut at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago, should keep Pioneer at pace with Sony, currently the price leader in CD.
Townsen envisions, "a really strong emphasis this year on CD and CD related products. The market is just now ripe for car CD."
Pioneer is further bolstered by the growth of its mass merchandising distribution, said Townsen.
To encourage and nurture that business, reports the executive, Pioneer has rerouted its distribution and has been 100 percent factory direct as of April 1, 1990.
Roy Harkey, senior vice president of Clarion sees advantages in direct sales. His new product line, introduced with much fanfare last January, is being delivered now.
Harkey notes that his company's new strategy will, "cause a reshift in our customer base.
"Some of our distributors that don't want to come along in our uplifted, higher-end product direction, might find themselves left behind and we don't want to do business with them longterm."
Harkey explains that, "I don't mean to say that Clarion does not want a person that is going to sell one of my $129 units, as long as he can also sell the $500 piece.
"If there's a retailer out there today that doesn't sell a head unit for over $150, then I probably don't want to do business with him in the future."
Harkey is not completely abandoning his roots, though, as one of the major promotional brands of the 1970s. Recently, the company, "introduced at the low-end of our line, the lowest priced, full-featured units that we've had in the last decade.
The most obvious benefit of Harkey's realignment is that, "People are looking to take on our line now that didn't formerly talk with us because they felt they didn't need Clarion since they already carried Sony, Kenwood or Alpine."
All-in-all, Clarion does business under just about every type of distribution system that exists in car audio today, by utilizing reps or distributors in some markets while employing direct distribution channels in others.
"You don't do business in car audio in Texas, like you do in Illinois or New York," theorizes Harkey.
Harkey uses Fretter as an example. "A store like Fretter is an electronics appliance store that is a specialist in some ways, and in others nearly a mass merchant. Yet they are a very successful account of ours in the markets we do business with them."
Harkey proffers an example: "Let's say that today I'm operating in a market through a distributor who sells to 50 outlets. By 1992, we would rather be doing business with 10 outlets on a direct basis than that distributor and his 50 outlets. That very well might mean that I will have to take a different distribution direction in the future," said the executive, cautiously adding that, "we will still be doing business 15 years from now with many of the distributors that we use today."
When asked what other autosound company he looks to as an example, Harkey mentions Kenwood. "If I was going to mention the one company that has done the best job in the last 5 to 7 years, it would be Kenwood. They've done a better job with marketing combined with product development than almost anybody else out there."
Kenwood celebrated its tenth anniversary in car audio this year by firing a CD price reduction salvo that some industry players interpreted as the beginning of a dogfight between Kenwood, Sony and Pioneer for the lowest price CD this year. Kenwood's fixed-mount tuner, with a suggested list price of $449, could sell as low as $349 this summer, according to Kenwood senior vice president Dan Petersen, although he was quoted as cautioning the autosound industry against the same type of price battles that are currently going on in the home arena.
Kenwood, like Sony and Pioneer, enjoys a good, better, best range of products. The company does a very healthy business with superstores nationwide.
The upcoming CES show marks the third and last phase in which Kenwood will roll-out its 40-odd product introductions for 1990.
Petersen hopes his array of new products will mix well with his company's distribution. In an interview in the last quarter of 1989, Petersen reported that 38 percent of Kenwood's sales are to car audio specialists, 33 percent to audio/video stores and regional chains, and 15 percent to power retailer customers, with the remaining sales to peripheral outlets.
For a company that temporarily lost its way in the autosound business following a dominant period in the 1970s, Sanyo car audio is back with a vengence.
The Chatsworth, Cal.-based company will introduce at CES a new CD changer, as well as a portable cellular phone (manufactured by Sanyo) that ultimately will be marketed with Sanyo's car stereo hardware, said Isaac Levy, company vice president of marketing.
The new CD changer, which is yet to be priced, will be a six disk unit that is capable of both horizontal and vertical mounting. The unit will first be shipped in July, said Levy.
Sanyo made a strong statement last CES with a DSP unit in an Infinity Q45.
The fruits of that labor may be marketed as soon as 1991, when Sanyo will market DSP units in the U.S. DSP products will be rolled out in Japan by the second half of this year, reported Levy.
A further glimpse into the future for Sanyo reveals an on-board navigation system and a car fax, both of which are past the drawing board stage.
Levy views the on-going CD price slashing from a distance, choosing to imply that his company's pricing is just right. "We haven't made any price moves since September," he said, "but we're still very aggressive."
More than a few industry onlookers regard JVC as the company that took up the slack after Sanyo's decline.
JVC is presently making a very strong push on CD, as well as upper-end head units that are part of its Digifine marque, JVC national sales manager of car audio Tom Caronia told HFD.
There is talk it that Caronia is not taking lower priced CD by the competition lying down, and is about to disclose two newly priced CD units. JVC was not ready to divulge that information at the time HFD went to press. Caronia would only say that, "we will be as competitive as need be to meet market demands."
Another industry report that implied a further price reduction by Sony would make possible a $299 CD sale by aggressive dealers, was soundly denied by Matt Frankel, Sony director of mobile electronics.
That possibility notwithstanding, Sony still leads the autosound market in CD equipment.
Its statement in January that it would actively market DAT home and car products left the industry buzzing about whether DAT would augment CD in the digital forum. Frankel would only say that, "when DAT is ready, we will be ready to bring it to market."
Sony is not resting on its laurels, Frankel asserted, but is focused on components, cassette head units and speakers as well as the CD category. what are the best car audio speakers on the market | Best car stereo speakers
"Sony doesn't want to be known as just a head-unit company . . . so we decided it was time to strengthen our entire product line," Frankel said at a dealers meeting this year when he reported that Sony would carry a full line of car amplifiers.
"There is some prejudice about a Japanese company coming out with amplifiers in the traditional American amplifier marketplace," said Frankel, "but we owe our dealers an easier sale."
Frankel confirmed that except for two top-of-the-line amps, Sony is farming out the remaining four amps.
Two new equalizers, including an entry-level piece that has a suggested retail of $130, were also presented at the meeting.
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Segregation based on racial and ethnic backgrounds was frowned upon and outlawed in the USA years ago. Not a lot, if any, attempts to foster such non-inclusive projects in recent decades.
^ I think you misunderstood, she wants to conceive a public space that brings cultures together, not one that sepparates or antagonizes them.

Interesting question, I'll have to think about it.
^ I think you misunderstood, she wants to conceive a public space that brings cultures together, not one that sepparates or antagonizes them.

Interesting question, I'll have to think about it.
"I want to design a public space that invigorates the unique identities of different ethnic groups in the area."

Sounds exactly like separation-but-equal and segregation. I think you may not be seeing this for what it is. But that's how social politics tends to work. ;)
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