By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Several Sirius Satellite Radio suppliers, including Kenwood, Panasonic and Audiovox, will ship new satellite tuners and adapters this month, as Sirius shifts into a more aggressive marketing and sales phase for fall.
Front runner XM Satellite Radio, which will complete a year of full national service in November, also will see some new products this fall, as Pioneer and BlitzSafe offer several upgrade products, including models with an improved user interface.
For Sirius, the new tuners and adapters from leading brands are expected to help make the service more widely available to consumers. Until now, the only universal Sirius RF adapter was offered by Jensen through about 1,000 dealer outlets plus 20 distributors.
Kenwood's new RF modulator adapter will convert any head unit to Sirius capability when also used with a tuner and antenna. It has the dual function of allowing any car stereo to connect directly to the Kenwood Music Keg, which stores up to 2,500 songs in MP3 format, although it does not allow direct, in-car downloading from the Sirius tuner to the Keg. Called the KCA-R70FM, it is available now at a suggested retail price of $80.
Panasonic's new standalone FM modulator kit, the CR-SRF100, works with any car stereo and will ship at the end of September at a suggested retail price of $229. It includes a controller, adapter and Sirius receiver. The unit will be available "to at least 50 percent of the overall car audio market," according to Rob Lopez, national marketing manager.
For Audiovox's part, the company just began shipping a Sirius RF modulator receiver. It includes an antenna and RF switching box as well as a commander module that displays channel number, artist name, song title and music or talk genre. It also offers direct channel access. The Sirius receiver is similar to the company's XM receiver that shipped in March. It works with any existing car radio and carries a suggested retail price of $199.
On the XM front, Pioneer says it will ship two new XM tuners to replace current models by the end of the year. These will offer improved interface features. "We can't give details yet, but they will be a little easier for the consumer to use," said Michael Townsen, VP marketing for the mobile entertainment division. A third XM tuner is also planned for the end of the first quarter that will be a step-up product.
BlitzSafe says it will ship several XM products this year, including a new adapter for Volkswagen. The adapter will allow Volkswagen factory systems to work with either XM or Sirius aftermarket tuners. These tuners will be sold through Volkwagen dealers, although the exact brands have yet to be named, said Ira Marlowe, BlitzSafe president and CEO. The Blitzsafe adapters will allow the dealer to retrofit Volkswagens back to 1998, he said, noting, "We expect to get an order from Volkswagen in the next month or month and a half."
Blitzsafe will also offer adapters that will convert the new Chrysler radios featuring Sirius service, to XM capability, Marlowe said.
In addition, BlitzSafe will ship a second version of the Kenwood adapter that allows Kenwood head units to work with an XM Pioneer tuner. "Version 2 will have category search presets and rapid scan," Marlowe said.
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