By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
OEM integration companies, which produce kits that allow OEM equipment to work with aftermarket products, or incompatible aftermarket products to work with each other, say the market is entering a new growth phase.
Leading brands, such as SoundGate, Peripheral (a division of AAMP of America), Blitz Safe and Precision Interface Electronics (PIE), say a new spate of software-based OEM integration products as well as auxiliary input products for DVD, MP3 and satellite radio is causing a spike in sales.
SoundGate has seen a 70 percent increase in sales over the past few months and a 40 percent increase for last year overall, according to president Rob Putnam. "When we started in '96 we were about three years ahead of the curve," he said. "We could see the growing complexity of the electrical systems in new cars and the retailers and installers have finally caught up with what we've been preaching for four years. We see ourselves as a watchdog for the new technologies coming in."
Peripheral said its OnStar and door lock interfaces are selling fast. "I cannot keep them in stock. It's much greater than our expectation. For the door locks we have many retailers whose customers have been waiting for three to six months," said Ron Freeman, VP of Aamp of America.
Blitz Safe says its sales grew by 20 percent last year and are expected to climb another 40 percent in 2002, while PIE says it expects a very strong year in 2002.
One factor driving sales is that the issue of OEM integration has become more pressing because more factory radios are integrated with car function controls.
"Ten years ago [Detroit] would change the size of the radio and we'd need a new installation kit. Now we're trying to integrate into the bus of the vehicle," said Freeman. "When you remove the factory radio on most GM cars, then you lose the OnStar function and you also lose the left door chime. Many installers were just removing it and the store managers weren't educated that that is a safety issue. If the driver gets into an accident and his seat belt chime didn't go off, that's a safety issue."
As a result, OEM integration companies are upping their investments in R&D, with Freeman claiming R&D "has tripled in the last few years." PIE said its R&D has doubled in the past two years and will likely double again next year.
OEM integration kits that restore OnStar service when you remove a GM radio are among the more popular new products, as are auxiliary interfaces that allow certain OEM or aftermarket radios to work with aftermarket DVD players, MP3 and satellite radio (see story below). Auxiliary interface products that have been introduced only this year could win 10 percent of the integration market by the close of 2002, said PIE.
Among SoundGate's 2002 products are auxiliary interfaces for BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Audi and Volkswagen radios that allow add-on A/V products through the CD-changer section of the factory system (rather than via an FM Modulator, which degrades sound quality). These are slated to ship March 1 at prices in the $90 range. Additional units are expected to follow for Nissan, Infiniti, Toyota and GM.
Also new are digital versions of the company's STARMOD GM interfaces that allow access to OnStar from aftermarket radios via a digital bus. They are expected to ship in March or early April in the $169 range.
SoundGate is also introducing new ICBs that use Intelligent MOSFET circuit breaker technology to protect the vehicle's charging system while providing more power to the amplifier, the company said.
Peripheral is introducing several door lock interface kits that allow an aftermarket keyless entry or security system to work with a Class 2 data bus. The company recently began shipping interfaces for the 2002 Trailblazer, Envoy and Bravada, and it expects to ship four additional models for GM and Chrysler cars in the next 60 days.
In addition, Peripheral is offering a new digital OnStar Interface that plugs directly into the serial data bus. Because the unit communicates directly on the serial bus it eliminates false triggering, does not need a separate speaker and is simple to install, the company said.
Also new is an interface that converts OEM steering-wheel controls to multipurpose controls that can operate an aftermarket audio/video system while maintaining the normal control of the factory radio.
PIE just began shipping an auxiliary interface that allows an OEM head unit that has CD changer controls to integrate with either an XM or Sirius tuner. The unit lets users switch between AM/FM and satellite radio and it also allows interfacing with an aftermarket DVD or MP3 player.
Kits are available for car makes including Ford, GM, Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, VW and Audi, at suggested retail prices ranging from $35 to $70.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.