By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Car locators or GPS tracking devices represent a small niche, but one that suppliers say could win over the high end of the security market.
While retailers such as Crutchfield and Seattle-based Car Toys cite limited demand for the category thus far, some suppliers said the time is ripe for sales to increase. Locating devices in general are gaining media attention and prices are coming down, they claim.
Directed Electronics president and CEO Jim Minarik estimates that car locators sold by after-market suppliers (which exclude LoJack), represent 10 percent to 20 percent of the security market, which in turn is estimated at $250 to $300 million wholesale, annually.
LoJack, the market pioneer and leader, sells exclusively through car dealers and has installed close to 6 million units in cars worldwide to date.
Suppliers said there is plenty of room for a LoJack alternative at car dealers and in the aftermarket, but that the product must be aggressively marketed.
Minarik claimed the product does well "when it's presented as an attachment to a high-end security system," and that "not enough dealers are going after this opportunity."
Two of the challenges for the category have been high price and low awareness. "The price is still a little out of reach," said AirIQ marketing VP Peter LaMantia, claiming, "There's been lots of interest, although take up has been slower than what we had hoped for, but we're beginning to see better take up across all channels."
Car Toys confirmed sales are picking up in its commercial division, although sales at the retail stores are still "moderate," according to merchandising senior VP Dan Jeancola.
Crutchfield said, "It's doing okay, not great. I had higher hopes for it," according to Tom Bancroft, merchandise director for marine, GPS and accessories.
After many delays, Audiovox began shipping the PursuitTrack locator to car dealers and expediters last month and will follow that shortly with the retailer-aimed Intercept.
"We're counting on extremely strong growth in this category projected over the next five years, now that we have approved products. This is going to be a big push for us because you are not going to get this level of growth from traditional security," said Audiovox Electronics president Tom Malone. "The initial push for car locators is going to be done at the new car dealer level," he added.
Audiovox's PursuitTrack costs approximately $799 through retailers and $899 at the car dealer. It offers the first five years of theft coverage at no cost plus 12 free "commands" or contacts. Thereafter users can buy commands in packs of 50 or 200. Features include Internet tracking, remote door lock/unlock, remote-start capability, geofencing and theft notification.
Guidepoint started selling car-tracking devices to 12-volt specialists 18 months ago. The company is headed by former Code-Alarm founder Rand Mueller, and it sells to about 150 retailers and expediters.
Guidepoint has one locator with a Cingular GSM/GPS receiver that sells in the $799 to $999 range. Updates to the box can be wirelessly sent via the cellular network and new functions and services are being added at regular intervals.
If the car is stolen, Guidepoint works with the police to track and recover the vehicle at no charge. Other services range from $4 to $49 per month and include online vehicle tracking, geofencing, speed monitoring, OnStar-type services such as live turn-by-turn directions from a call center, or concierge services from the call center such as booking reservations. It also offers door lock/unlock and remote-start capability.
Directed offers 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 e-mail. It also offers geofencing, Internet tracking, border-crossing alert, door lock/unlock and remote start, and speed alerts. The fee is $599 suggested retail for the unit plus 30 uses for $99. The 210 series works with Directed security and remote start systems.
AirIQ sells the MobileIQ GSM-based unit at a suggested $599. It has alerts for low battery, excessive speed, border crossing and notification if the vehicle is moved without the key in the ignition. It also provides Internet tracking, location by phone, door lock/unlock and remote-start capability at a fee of $9.95 per month or $99 per year for 100 actions.
Crimestopper offers six models including the retail-aimed TN-4004.II with Internet tracking, geofencing, speed alerts, door unlock and remote-start capability at a suggested $695 including 20 free uses.
Market newcomer SkyPatrol sells a $499 locator through mass merchants that use the InstallerNet network of 6,000 installers.
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