By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The car remote start industry is bracing for a “range war” as suppliers rush to offer 1-mile capability and beyond, enabling consumers to start their cars and receive a confirmation of that action, from a long distance.
Audiovox, Crimestopper and AutoPage will join Directed and Compustar (Firstech) in offering remote starters with near 1-mile range or beyond. Keeping ahead of the pack, Compustar, which has offered a product with up to a 1.25-mile range for years, says it will leapfrog ahead again, with a new two-way product that offers up to a 2-mile range for the “return confirmation” from the vehicle and up to a 1.25-mile range for sending commands to the vehicle.
Remote start, from its onset, has been about range,” said Auto Page VP of sales and marketing Mike Northup, noting, “It will get to the point where we get beyond what is practical. Who really needs to be a mile away from their car?”
Last year, most suppliers offered ranges of a quarter-mile or a half-mile (the equivalent of 1,300 or 2,600 feet, approximately). Retailers said 1,000 feet is the generally accepted range to most consumers.
AutoPage claims part of the focus on long range is due to a low emphasis on brands in the category. “People don't go into a store and ask for a brand. They get what is pushed by the salesman. So to differentiate one product from another, [suppliers] often rely on range” pointed out Jean Francois Cleroux, sales manager for Autostart.
Cleroux also added, “I don't know how useful that is, but the market seems to be going that way.”
Compustar's new Pro Series model P2WSS operates on the 900MHz band using spread spectrum technology that can change frequencies. If there is interference at one frequency, it shifts to the next clearest frequency, said Brian Shaw, national sales manager.
The 2-mile range is especially desirable on the “return signal” from the car in a combination remote start/security system because the user may be further away from the car when an event, such as a break in occurs, triggering the system to page the user.
The Compustar Pro Series P2WSS will be available on a limited basis to select retailers initially, said Shaw. It uses an LCD remote that displays the battery voltage and internal temperature of the vehicle and the voltage of the remote. The remote has a built-in alarm clock. It will be available in a combination security/remote start system with basic installation at $700 suggested retail; or as a stand-alone remote starter system at $600; or a standalone security system at $650. Shipping is expected at the end of October.
Audiovox said it will offer a new 900MHz remote start model with an approximate 1-mile range, expected to be available in December.
Directed, considered the leader in remote start and security, recently began shipping dedicated remote start systems with up to a 1-mile capacity, including the two-way Viper 5500, Python 950 and Clifford Matrix 20.5X starting at a $539 suggested retail. Last year, the company offered up to a quarter-mile range.
These join the 1-mile combination remote start/security units from Directed that shipped in July. New one way, 1-mile remote start models are also due this month.
Crimestopper will offer a new spread spectrum 915 MHz model with up to a 6,000-foot range in October. Called the Infinity, it will also be available at 433MHz FM with a 3,000-foot range. The Infinity also offers a true color LCD screen that allows users to download photos to the display as screen savers.
AutoPage said it will ship in November a 900MHz remote starter system which will offer a range approaching up to a mile, it said. The new RS-1000 will also have a new encoder to help contribute to range and a new style antenna and it will be one of the first on the market to offer a full color Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) screen for high quality graphics to display two way confirmations. The screen will be able to display an actual door lock plunger moving up or down to depict a door lock/unlock confirmation, said Northup.
The RS-1000 can operate up to four vehicles and has a mini USB for downloads and battery recharging capability. It also comes with a battery recharger. It is expected to carry a suggested retail price of approximately $799 with installation.
Audiovox is also extending its Car Link feature, offered as an option on one model last year, to all security and remote start products other than its leader models. The Car Link is an optional telematics black box, that when added to a security or remote start system, allows users to call an 800 number to perform functions such as remote door lock/unlock or remote start from any distance. “It adds unlimited range. You can be 30 miles from your car and you can't remember if you locked your doors. Or you can start your car while you are on the plane. It communicates with your cellphone and works anywhere there is cellular service,” said Thom Balistrieri, national sales manager for vehicle security. The product is offered without a monthly service fee at $199.
Also new from the company are single button remote units (one-way) with tiny remotes so users don't have to carry around a bulky remote control in addition to the already bulky key to their car. These remote start units are now available with added range of 1,200 feet.
Several remote start suppliers are now focusing on screen technology to improve the remote's display over the earlier generation models that relied on confusing icons. Audiovox is shipping its new line of remote starters with dot matrix screens that offer text confirmation of commands (rather than icons). “If someone bumps into your bumper, it reads out what is happening,” Balistrieri.
Autostart said it plans to ship a new remote start, model AS2400TWFM with an LCD remote with a slim design that also offers both an alphanumeric and icon display.
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.