Audiovox Beefs Up Jensen, Car Safety

By Amy Gilroy On Oct 25 2004 - 6:00am

Audiovox unveiled several new product and marketing strategies at a fall product preview here, including several branding changes.

Going forward, most Audiovox car audio products will be marketed under the Jensen and Phase Linear brands, and the Audiovox brand will be used primarily for mobile video, including some in-dash mobile DVD. The strategy is expected to be formally announced at SEMA and CES, said Audiovox (See story, p. 4).

Leading the new Jensen products is the VM9510, an in-dash DVD/monitor/TV at a record low price of $799, said the company. It offers a 7-inch “no compromise” fully motorized LCD monitor, according to senior VP marketing and sales, Tom Malone, who claimed that Audiovox is able to offer low prices because it is the largest buyer of mobile video-screens. The single-DIN unit has a TV tuner pack and offers MP3 and CD-R/CD-RW capability. The 9510 also has built-in 50 watt x 4 power and is currently being air shipped into the United States, said Malone.

Audiovox also outlined a strategy to stay one step ahead of OEMs in car video through larger screens and alternative products. The company is also making a concerted push into a new growth area of car safety and accessories.

“There is a ground swell in safety accessories. The 12-volt guys have to see that the mobile video customer is the same as a safety and security customer. Safety ties to other products, like screens. We're talking to dealers about creating safety and security sections,” said Malone.

Among these products are rear-vision cameras that link to a rearview mirror/monitor. Audiovox plans to aggressively push this market by launching a line of “customized” rearview mirror/monitors for every make of SUV. Each mirror has an embedded monitor that can also be used for viewing navigation and satellite radio display information, said Malone. “We will have a screen for every single SUV, as they have the biggest blind spots. The blind spot for a Ford Explorer is 39 feet,” he noted.

Malone said vehicle-specific mirror/monitors will evolve into a new industry, comparable to the customized headrest/monitor market which is now taking off. The mirror/monitors include a 4-inch screen display that can be set to activate only when the rearview camera activates, or when a navigation unit is warning of an upcoming turn. Although Audiovox currently offers a generic mirror/monitor for all cars, the first vehicle-specific model is expected to ship in 60 to 90 days for Toyota.

Malone foresees continual product “fusion” between mobile video and safety. He said overhead screen consoles will eventually have built-in micro cameras to serve as “baby minders.”

In security, Audiovox is also taking a novel approach, offering a $200 add-on module to any of its security systems that will offer many OnStar-like features, but without the monthly service charge.

The module, called the CarlinkCL100, converts any Audiovox remote start or security system into a remote paging system. Consumers nationwide, via telephone, can unlock doors, start the car remotely, flash the lights, disable the car in case of theft, and arm or disarm the security system.

“You can lock and unlock your doors a thousand times a day and remote start your car from the train a thousand times” without any usage fees, said Malone.

He added, “Up until now the dealer had nothing more to sell to a remote-start customer. Now he can add $200 to any remote start sale,” Malone said, noting, “The most common use of OnStar is for remote door unlock. You lock your keys in the car one time and the module pays for itself.” The CL100 has just begun shipping, said Audiovox.

In mobile video, Audiovox continued to stress that the current bread-and-butter overhead monitor is quickly being overtaken by the OEMs. “Car manufacturers have gotten on this category like none other before. They're bringing technology to market faster than they've ever done. They see this as something which moves vehicles,” Malone said. “Hundreds of thousands of what used to be target vehicles for us are gone,” he added, noting that many cars now offer 7-inch factory overhead monitors.

The company is therefore stressing alternative screens and claims 15-inch versions are rapidly gaining market share. Audiovox is also pushing its new headrest monitors with built- in DVD and said it upgraded the product so that each screen in every pair of headrest monitors comes with its own DVD player.

Audiovox also plans to ship in January new transportable overhead monitor/DVDs that can snap out of the overhead console for use in the kitchen or on the go. The monitors will come in 7-inch, 8.5-inch and 10.2-inch sizes with optional kitchen mounting brackets. (see TWICE, July 12, p. 39).

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