By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Rear-vision or backup cameras are a small niche, but along with their cousin, the backup sensor, they are attracting more suppliers and showing signs of growth.
At present, much of the backup camera and sensor business is performed through expediters, which account for as much as 90 percent of the market, according to suppliers. In fact Hitchcam, one of the market leaders, recently switched its business over entirely to expediters. But others say the retail side is ripe for a push.
Backup cameras are typically mounted on or near the rear bumper of a vehicle. They send a video signal to a monitor in view of the driver, who can then see behind his vehicle. A backup ultrasonic sensor mounts in the rear of the car and sends an audible beeping tone to the driver when the car is in reverse and an object is detected behind the vehicle. Backup sensors carry $249 to $299 suggested retail prices compared to rear-vision camera systems at approximately $499.
Audiovox's auto security, telematics and navigation VP Phil Lubelle notes, “There's no reason that a retailer couldn't be in this market, it just hasn't caught on yet.”
VizuaLogic's sales and marketing VP Warren Mann admits, “The segment has not taken off yet at the velocity we had originally anticipated. Our sales are 50 percent above last year, but we're still not seeing a generalized acceptance of these products yet.” Mann says the culprit is consumer awareness, but adds, “In another 12 months we should see this product category picking up.”
Suppliers are ready and waiting for that demand with companies including Pioneer, Clarion and Eclipse recently entering the market.
Some informal estimates place the combined backup camera and backup sensor aftermarket at about 100,000 units or more, with the sensors comprising the majority of sales. A.T. Kearney, Chicago, estimates that the total market for all parking and back up automotive aids will reach $963 million by 2008.
A quick TWICE poll of retailers found that many are dabbling in the market, carrying one or two products or considering carrying a product.
Audio Express, Scottsdale, Ariz., claims there's a demand for the product, but not yet enough to support carrying a good, better, best lineup.
Best Buy carries the products in a small percentage of its stores, says a spokeswoman.
Car Toys, Seattle, says, “It is a niche with growth potential, but still a comparatively small business.”
But both suppliers and retailers say the market has potential as a lucrative add-on sale to a navigation system. Eclipse and Pioneer for example, offer cameras designed to work with their navigation systems.
Car Toys' merchandising VP Jim Warren says, “Our biggest success has been in adding the backup camera feature to customers who are having navigation systems installed.”
The Specialists, Tucson, Ariz., displays a Pioneer camera along with an AVIC-N1 navigation/mobile video system. Buyer Tom Olla says sales are up in the category by double digits over last year as consumer awareness gains. “There's been a lot of things on TV about the cameras and the OEs are coming out with it now on the Lexus.”
Hitchcam says it is also finding success pitching rear vision cameras as add-ons for navigation systems. The company introduced a back up camera interface for OE navigation systems three weeks ago and is sold out. “We sold every module we had in stock in four days and that was forecast to be a 45 day inventory,” said national sales manager Roger Hooker.
Ease of installation is another product trend and several suppliers are developing back up cameras that do not require drilling holes in a car bumper. Crimestopper recently introduced the TrimCam which mounts on the license plate trim without the need to drill holes. Also new from the company is the OEMCam, which mounts next to the license plate and the ClipCam, which uses a magnetized mount to the trunk lid, both eliminating the need for drilling.
Vizualogic also introduced the C1000 Hindsight, which is designed to screw into the holes in a license plate mounting bracket for simple installation. The camera is packaged with a 3.5-inch monitor at $499 suggested retail price.
Audiovox is introducing one of the first transportable backup ultrasonic sensors. The unit affixes to a trailer hitch and sends a wireless signal to the cigarette lighter plug in the vehicle where the user plugs in a receiving unit. The hitch sensor system will be available this month at a suggested retail price of $200.
The backup camera market continues to attract new entrants including recent newcomers SVAT, Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Sona Electronics, Concord, N.C.
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