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MP3 capability as a feature is steadily gaining, with some dealers who cater to a cutting- edge clientele claiming skyrocketing sales.
Several retailers said MP3 models now represents 20 percent of their car CD player sales with most of the demand coming from a younger audience who is accustomed to downloading.
Tim Lavoie, president of Tim's Car Tunes, Indian Orchard, Mass., was one of the most enthusiastic. "I'd say close to half of our CD players have been MP3," he said, noting that some customers buy the MP3 units even though they are not downloading music.
"But they know at some point they will get into [downloading]," he said. "We attract a more technologically advanced consumer. We advertise ourselves as the technology leader."
Crutchfield, Charlottesville, Va., and Action Electronics, Newington, Conn., said 20 percent of the their CD sales are in MP3-capable units, while Al & Ed's, Monterey Park, Calif., said MP3 accounts for 15 percent to 20 percent of its CD player sales. Pirate Radio, Manchester, Conn., said approximately 10 people ask for MP3 per week, compared to sales of four or five CD players per day.
"It's now becoming a standard feature on step-up models, so it's analagous to CD changer control capability. It was a premium feature, and then it worked its way to where almost everything is a CD changer controller. I see MP3 playback following that path," said Dan Hodgson, senior merchandising VP for Crutchfield.
At present, however, there is still a $50 to $100 premium for the feature, and not all retailers say consumers are asking for MP3. Some, who cater to an older demographic or who are not in high-technology urban areas, say the uptake on MP3 is slow. Several retailers said many consumers are more concerned with CD-R playback capability rather than MP3.
According to NPD Techworld, MP3 portable player sales were up 57 percent in 2001.
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