San Antonio — The Progressive Retailers Organization was at the Westin La Cantera Hill Coun
Car locators have been slow to gain a foothold beyond the new car dealer market, but after at least four years of false starts, suppliers still believe the market will expand to retail.
Directed said it has sold a few thousand locators this year to retailers, and SkyPatrol said sales through the retail channel have been slow.
Guidepoint, which sells 50,000 car locators per year and has been attempting to sell through retailers, said it is still a tough sale because of price. Almost 90 percent of Guidepoint's business is in sales to new car dealers as a result.
"The price point is just not there yet. Until it comes down pretty significantly, I don't see it becoming a Best Buy phenomena. Most mobile electronics is sold in the $200 to $300 range and this device typically sells for twice that," said Guidepoint founder and president Rand Mueller.
Audiovox said it plans to sell 30,000 car locators per year, mostly through car dealerships. The company began shipping its long-delayed PursuiTrak locator two months ago. It recently reached an agreement to sell its locators through AutoNation, which has more than 327 new car franchises. Audiovox also plans to unveil a retail car locator at International CES in January.
Directed president and CEO Jim Minarik said that mass merchants are still wary of the product but Directed continues to work with them to develop a means of displaying and explaining the locators in a mass market environment.
SkyPatrol believed sales would start to climb next year and projected sales of 25,000 to 35,000 units through retailers in 2008. "I believe wholeheartedly in the category. I'm on the road all the time. We're selling into CircuitCity.com, Target.com and SamsClub.com. I think there will be more activity in the first quarter. The interest level is getting there. People want to know where their vehicle is. It's almost human nature," said Stuart Kaplan, VP sales.
The company dropped the price by $100 on its car locator, to $399. It offers a flat-rate service fee of $19.99 per month for unlimited use.
Car locators or trackers sold through retailers target two demographics. One is parents with teenage drivers. An estimated 6,000 teens die annually from car accidents and 40 percent of 16- to 24-year-old drivers are involved in collisions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association said SkyPatrol.
As a safety precaution for teens, parents can set a car tracker to notify them when the car exceeds a preset speed limit or travels outside a proscribed geographic area.
Kaplan said the other audience is security minded; it's the person who goes out of town and parks his car at the airport and wants to know that its still there, he said.
One newcomer to the car locator market is Culver City, Calif.-based Haas Entertainment, a Southern California audio/video systems integrator.
It is shipping the Haas GPS Tracker car locator that offers real-time vehicle location via cellphone or computer; it receives alerts if the vehicle is stolen or towed and allows the user to monitor teen driving by enabling the parent to set maximum speed limits, and geographic boundaries.
The GPS Tracker can also be used to track vehicle maintenance schedules (oil changes, tune ups, etc.), and will alert the owner when the vehicle's battery starts to run down.
Optional features can be added to the Tracker such as remote door lock/unlock; "Car-Find," which can locate a vehicle in a parking lot by flashing the lights and honking the horn; and "Starter Interrupt," which prevents unauthorized use of the vehicle. The GPS Tracker is now available at a suggested retail of $995.
Audiovox's PursuiTrak offers theft recovery at no charge for the lifetime of the product, and users can purchase additional convenience plans starting at $80 per year. The product itself carries a fee of approximately $899 at the car dealer. Features include Internet tracking, live theft recovery call-in center, remote door lock/unlock, remote-start capability, geo-fencing and theft notification.
Directed sells a 210-series of GSM car trackers under the Python, Viper, Clifford and AutoMate brands. If the vehicle is moved while the ignition is off, users are notified via phone or email. It also offers geo-fencing, Internet tracking, border-crossing alert, door lock/unlock, remote start and speed alerts. The fee is $599 suggested retail for the unit plus 100 uses for $99. The 210 series works with Directed security and remote-start systems.
Other suppliers offering GPS tracking devices include Crimestopper, Peripheral under the Street Eagle brand, and AirIQ.