Kenwood's Mizuhara On Next 50 Years

By Joseph Palenchar On Jun 20 2011 - 4:01am

LONG BEACH, CALIF. — Ryo Mizuhara took the helm last month of Kenwood’s U.S. operation on its 50th anniversary, and much has changed since 1961 within the company, the consumer electronics industry and the global economy.

As Kenwood USA embarks on what all would hope would be another half century of operation, Mizuhara spoke with TWICE about the company’s short- and long-term goals.

TWICE: Do you plan any new operational, distribution or marketing directions in the U.S.?

Mizuhara: Overall, our directions for Kenwood in the U.S. will be more sharply focused on sales and operational execution as well as marketing through digital media and social-networking channels. I believe that customers have much higher expectations for leader brands, and Kenwood needs to constantly deliver on those expectations.

TWICE: What are your priorities for Kenwood USA?

My two top priorities are to keep sales momentum strong in a tough U.S. economy and to grow awareness of the Kenwood brand. We also have strategic market development intentions. However, we must pay close attention to the dynamics of the business.

TWICE: How will Kenwood and JVC in the U.S. be affected by the Oct. 1 merger of JVC Kenwood Holdings, Victor Co. of Japan, Kenwood Corp. and J&K Car Electronics Corp.? For example, will some U.S. JVC and Kenwood operations be combined? Would JVC and Kenwood car electronics sales, marketing or distribution be combined?

Mizuhara: In Japan, Kenwood and JVC have taken advantage of some efficiencies that are the result of the integration of the two companies. How this will be fully realized in the U.S. is still unknown. However, I can state that we intend to keep both brands strong and unique within the U.S. market.

Does Kenwood USA have any plans in the U.S. to re-enter the home audio market, which Kenwood left in the mid 2000s?

Mizuhara: Kenwood home audio products are still sold in some overseas markets in Asia and Europe. We have no intention of re-entering the home audio market offering similar product as we had in the past, such as A/V receivers, video disc players and tower speakers. We are, however, studying new businesses where Kenwood could be competitive and offer strong value. It is too soon to discuss concrete details at this time.

TWICE: Where has Kenwood USA excelled in the U.S. mobile electronics business, and where must it improve?

Mizuhara: The Kenwood mobile electronics business has done quite well in the U.S. market due to leadership positioning in the in-dash electronics product categories and has gained market share in amplifiers and speakers.

I believe we will continue to see severe competitive pressures in all of these categories. Thus we must work harder on delivering value to dealers through the best operational execution and by attracting new customers to their stores. Of course, we must continue to deliver quality product, and we intend to do so.

Do you foresee new aftermarket product directions for Kenwood in the U.S.? For example, targeting the expediter market, offering factorylook OEM A/V-navigation systems that integrate with the factory databus when necessary, bringing out installed aftermarket car Wi-Fi, and the like?

Mizuhara: Kenwood’s commitment to the aftermarket is driving us to explore many different product directions that are being developed to address the broader technological trends taking place in the U.S., such as smartphone penetration, wireless broadband and the popularity of on-demand content. The specifics of our plans cannot be discussed at this time. However, rest assured that Kenwood will continue in its leadership product position.

TWICE: Does Kenwood plan to adopt the universal SiriusXM connector?

Mizuhara: Kenwood will adopt the SiriusXM interface platform on all satellite-ready products in 2012.

TWICE: In the mobile aftermarket, what is the outlook for industry sales this year and next? Are what will be the industry’s growth segments in 2011 and 2012?

Mizuhara: I have always been optimistic about the industry. The U.S. has over 250 million registered passenger vehicles, and the average age of these vehicles is just over nine years old. This means we have very good in-dash replacement and upgrade opportunities if we can get the attention of these consumers and demonstrate how much better we can make their driving experience through the use of our products.

Regarding growth segments, I would say that any product category that allows consumers to better enjoy the content they bring into the car on their smartphone, iPod or other mass-storage device will see steady growth.

TWICE: In 2008, when JVC and Kenwood officially merged under the JVC Kenwood Holdings name, the company said it wanted to make OEM and aftermarket car electronics business its top product category. Has there been any change in that direction?

Mizuhara: Our direction has not changed. And Kenwood is involved in the OEM market as a tier-one and tiertwo supplier to various automobile manufacturers and is active in the dealer-option and port-installation ends of the business.

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