By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
As the weather in the northern states cools down, industry members are planning for a winter of hot sales in remote starters.
Despite many years of growth, and despite General Motors expanding its OEM remote-start lineup, the category is expected to see yet another year of double-digit growth.
Audiovox's mobile electronics senior VP Tom Malone forecasts the after-market remote-start segment will grow by 20 percent this year, and believes that growth will continue for the next few years. “People are buying their second and third units because once they've owned one, they never go back to being without one,” he said.
President of Crimestopper Howard Miller is also bullish. “I don't think its going to flatten out, I'm really expecting a better year. Yes, there's more competition, but I just came from the East Coast and the dealers I'm talking to expect to have a banner season … It's certainly not at the saturation point.”
One leading supplier guessed that the remote-start market in the United States hovers around $100 million, as a very general estimate which could be as much as 25 percent off.
This year marks a shift in the market as General Motors dramatically broadens its offering of remote starters to 15 models (see chart). Ford offers the products as a dealer option only and car makers including BMW, Nissan, Volvo and Volkswagen do not provide the factory option, they said.
General Motors' expanded presence in the market has attracted the attention of retailers and suppliers. Most say it serves to validate the category and raise awareness. GM models also have the limitation of a short range of 200 feet, they said.
One company, Astroflex, is addressing the trend with a line of accessories that boosts the range of GM remote starters. The company's new RI-GM-1 extends the range on GM cars to 1,500 feet, said Autoflex's sales manager J.P. Raymond. The RI-GM-1 requires a three-wire hook up and will emulate “everything the factory remote does,” Raymond said. The RI-GM-1 just started shipping at suggested price of $189.
Another factor driving the market this year is forecaster predictions for a cold winter. Of 10 retailers, mostly from the Northeast, who were polled by TWICE, only one predicted flat sales. Some dealers anticipated 5 percent to 20 percent gains, citing expectations for a cold winter as well as strong consumer awareness.
GM Steve Laplante of Jo-Di's Sound Centers, Hartford, Conn., is hoping for another year of 5 percent growth.
Westminster Speed & Sound of Westminster, Md., expects remote-starter sales to increase by 10 percent to 20 percent, and Sound Trax, Centereach, N.Y., expects a 10 percent gain.
Car Tunes, Farmingdale, N.Y., said sales gains will depend on the weather. “Last year, the season started in October and went to March. We were bombarded with snow storm after snow storm, which made remote start the only thing we were selling. My ordering this year will depend on how the season progresses,” said owner John Malakassis.
He and others note that the product is a strong Christmas gift. “It's a moderately priced Christmas present that makes people very happy. I usually find that family members will chip in together to buy one for a grandparent or parents,” said Malakassis. He sold 750 units from November through January last year, or 10 a day out of one store with eight installers, he said.
Jo-Di's Laplante said remote-start accounts for 50 percent of his business in December, and it averages about 10 percent of the chain's annual sales.
Two store Planet Hi Fi of Waterbury, Conn., said it expects sales will be flat due to gas prices. “I think people aren't going to want to see their cars idling with gas at $3 a gallon,” said president Richard Clark.
By contrast, Autosound & More of Greenwich, in the affluent suburb of Greenwich, Conn., said his customers drive newer, high-end cars that often can't accommodate remote start. Owner Gil Laguna, however, still predicts improved sales this year.General Motors Vehicles With Remote Start
|2004 & higher||Chevrolet||Malibu|
|2005 & higher||Pontiac||G6|
|Source: General Motors © TWICE 2005|
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.