Pioneer Enters Portable GPS

By Amy Gilroy On May 8 2006 - 6:00am

Pioneer, one of the last key autosound players to announce an entry into the booming portable navigation segment, said it will deliver its first portable GPS unit this June.

The new AVIC-S1 has preloaded maps of the United States and Canada, an SD card slot, built-in rechargeable battery and Bluetooth for hands-free cellphone calling. Suggested retail price is $599.

Until now, Pioneer, which claims to have a leading share of the $85 million fixed automotive U.S. navigation market, has steered clear of portable GPS — a 2 million unit segment with over 120 percent growth, by Pioneer's own estimates.

Karen Rubin, marketing and product planning director for navigation, said the change in strategy came from Pioneer's research on its current in-dash navigation owners. The company found that more than 30 percent of its AVIC customers already owned a portable GPS. “From those results we [determined] that there's a step-up logic of having a good experience with portable navigation and then wanting to look for something more.” Pioneer is therefore offering the AVIC-S1 portable as “an entry point” for navigation customers, said Rubin.

Other features of the AVIC-S1 include a 3.5-inch color touch screen, 2GB of flash memory for map storage and 1.5 million points of interest.

In navigation in general, Pioneer said its real-time traffic sales have picked up recently. Rubin said 40 percent of in-dash navigation customers subscribe to XM NavTraffic. Many AVIC customers are satellite radio owners — over 60 percent — “and all of these customers will use their satellite radio over any other audio source such as CD or MP3 playback … If they already have XM audio, they are more inclined to try out XM NavTraffic,” she said. Pioneer is also examining other real-time traffic services using RDS or Sirius.

Separately, Pioneer announced a new multimillion dollar advertising campaign called “Drive Happier,” to support its navigation systems. It will include three television commercials to air on five different cable channels and a print campaign. Pioneer has also broadened its cross-country promotion tour for GPS. Last year the tour created more than 7.6 million consumer impressions and more than 25,000 hands-on demonstrations, Pioneer said. This year the 10-month tour will have two separate legs: one each for the East and West, and each will include five demo vehicles. They will travel to malls, festivals, concerts, retailers and other locations to promote navigation.

Finally, Pioneer introduced a new in-dash car DVD/monitor called the AVH-P7800DVD with DVD Audio, DiVX, and Bluetooth and iPod capability. The unit offers 96k/24-bit 5.1 channel sound and has DTS, Dolby Digital and other surround formats, plus a 50x8-watt amplifier with nine channel high-volt pre-amp. Other features include a 7-inch TFT with wide VGA (800 by 480 pixels) and QVGA resolution and 13-band graphic equalizer plus three band parametric equalizer. It has optional attachments for XM, Sirius, a TV tuner, navigation, iPod and Bluetooth devices. The P7800DVD is due to ship in June at $2,200.

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