By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Transportable 12-volt video systems are growing by more than 80 percent annually for some suppliers.
Audiovox, which is credited with a 40 percent share in transportable video, says its sales are up more than 85 percent this year and RCA, which just entered the market last November, says sales for the industry are up at least fourfold.
Suppliers attribute this high growth to increasing consumer awareness and gains at the car dealer level.
"It's a phenomenal success story. Two and a half years ago it was almost a novelty product," said Tom Malone, mobile electronics group senior VP. "Every minivan owner in the country wants video."
RCA said that the car leasing market is also adding to mobile video's growth. "The [lessee] doesn't want to spend the money to put a fixed unit in their car so leasing-type companies are finding it's a nice alternative. That market has exploded — it was totally untapped before this year," said John Merrell, product planning manager for value TV. Lower prices for LCD screens are also helping spur sales, he added.
Not all suppliers, however, are reporting the same success. Rosen Products has exited the market, choosing to beef up its component 12-volt video business, and Steel Horse filed Chapter 11 on Sept. 6 (see story, right). Rosen chairman and CEO Tom Clements said only, "We don't think it's a market we want to pursue. Our areas of expertise lead us more to highly integrated, feature-rich systems."
One industry member said privately that the high rate of returns in mobile video, and the fact that it is mainly a business done at mass merchants was a problem for Steel Horse and Rosen, who were not accustomed to working with mass merchants in selling consumer electronics items.
In new products this year, Audiovox is releasing the first combination DVD/VCP unit. The model VBP-5000 is aimed at families who have a big VHS collection and a growing DVD library as well. The unit has dual 5.6-inch screens with built-in speakers and the system will accept additional screens. The VBP-5000 is expected to carry a suggested retail price of $599.
Also new from Audiovox is one of the first 12-inch transportable video systems. Called the D1210, it can double as a home 12.1-inch monitor. It has built-in speakers and a built-in, slot-load DVD on the top. It is designed to suspend between two seats in the car and it has a stand for use as a TV or computer monitor in the home. The D1210 comes with a wireless transmitter for headphones and has a suggested price of $699. Both products ship in December.
RCA, which sells two systems, said its DVD unit is now outselling the initial VHS model. "We expected this, but not as rapidly as it happened," said Merrell. The company plans to show new units in January but would not comment on upcoming products.
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