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Car security sales are expected to increase slightly this year, exceeding industry expectations.
Market leaders Directed and Audiovox said sales are running slightly ahead of 2005 year to date, despite forecasts by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) for a decline in 2006.
Earlier this year, CEA forecast 2006 sales at $250 million, down from $253 million in 2005 with a further decline in 2007 to $249 million.
New upscale, two-way, remote-start and security models are boosting sales, said suppliers.
Directed president and CEO Jim Minarik said, "Vehicle security is growing slightly for the industry and even benefiting from the declines in car audio. Many of the retailers who have been used to very large sales of head units, speaker sand amplifiers, have hit a rough spot and are doubling their emphasis on this category. Especially this time of year."
He added, "If you chat with 12-volt retailers, they will tell you in many cases it is security, convenience and remote start that keeps them in business. Our guess is the market is growing in single digits and we're growing more."
In New England, sales of remote starters have become so entrenched, they account for most of the fourth-quarter business for many retailers.
Stores such as Jo-Di's Sound Centers, Hartford, Conn., claim, "It's what gets us through the winter. We'll do so much business between Dec. 15 and Dec. 30 that the installations carry us through to Feb. 15," said GM Steve Laplante.
In West Warwick, R.I., Steve Madeiros, owner of Sound FX said of the major car stereo brands: "They come to us and say, 'What can I do to increase your fourth-quarter business?' And we say, 'Make remote starters,'" He adds, "I think you'd find that most of the stores in New England rely heavily on remote start this time of year."
The category is also attractive because the big-box retailers are not focused on it, due to its semi-complex installation, said Madeiros, who sells almost 4,000 remote starters per season out of two stores. "There's a lot of bypasses [for installation] to deal with. And you have to know upfront when you quote the customers that the box integrates into this car with this bypass and needs these specific parts. And every car is different."
Suppliers say that, eventually, car security will move beyond remote start and into vehicle tracking, now only a small niche market. Audiovox mobile electronics senior VP Tom Malone said the components for vehicle tracking devices have already been downsized and fallen in cost. They also now allow for do-it-yourself installation. Vehicle-tracking devices can remotely lock and unlock doors from almost any distance, and they allow users to track their cars over the Internet, receive speed alerts (when the teen takes the car, for example) and remotely start the car, among other features. "Its time has come," he said of the market.
At the end of January, and after much delay, Audiovox begins shipping a Pursuitrak vehicle-tracking device at $799 that includes five years of free stolen-vehicle recovery service and one year of limited interactive service for many of the features mentioned above.
For the coming year, the big feature in security will be color animated graphics for remote start and security transmitters. Instead of static screens that show only one color at a time and are difficult to read, the animated color screens are easier to understand at a glance and more fun.
Crimestopper's new two-way Infinity series begins shipping in December with a full-color LCD transmitter that allows users to download their own images to the screen via a USB adapter. It also lets users change the beep tones to personalized ringtones. The series comes in two models — a CS2900FM with 0.5-mile range, and a one-mile, 915MHz version that ships in January called the CS2915FH. Both are combination alarm/remote-start units with keyless entry at $499 and $549 suggested retails, respectively.
Directed and Audiovox are also showing new animated color transmitters at International CES next month.
This season, CodeAlarm is shipping two new security and remote start systems. One is a remote starter with a transmitter that looks like a ChapStick and is called the StartStick. It adds remote start to a factory keyless-entry system, without adding a second bulky transmitter. The compact ChapStick-like transmitter offers 1,000-foot range at $139.
Also new is a FlashLogic system that lets installers program a remote-start adapter from a computer so they don't have to stock an adapter for each vehicle.
Since most factory cars have a security system, an after-market remote starter must bypass this security system in order to start the car remotely. Previously, the retailer had to stock up to 50 kits to accommodate remote start in each vehicle. The FlashLogic reduces that inventory to nine kits that can be programmed from a CodeAlarm Internet Web site. The FlashLogic kits range from $70 to $145.
Auto Page is also now shipping a new two-way remote starter with keyless entry called the RS622 at $299.