By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Mobile video sales are continuing their phenomenal climb, with year-to-date sales almost doubling those of last year.
Increasing consumer awareness and lower prices have helped spur sales of mobile video products, including navigation, from January through April to $46.5 million up from $25.6 million for the period last year, according to NPDTechworld.
For the year, suppliers expect wholesale mobile video sales to hit an estimated $400 million, representing an increase over 2001 of approximately 30 percent to 40 percent, according to Audiovox senior VP for mobile electronics Tom Malone. Individually, suppliers report equally exuberant results. Audiovox says year-to-date sales are up 50 percent for mobile video and have tripled in the video-in-a-bag category. Pioneer says it went into immediate backorder on its newest in-dash video head units and overhead consoles; and Icon TV says sales are up 65 percent. Alpine year-to-date mobile video sales are up 10 percent, with VP marketing Stephen Witt noting, "All indications are this trend will continue, even in the step-up market, and even amidst all of the low-priced products in the marketplace."
RCA, which tested the waters in mobile video this year with two portable models, said sales have been so strong that the company will extend its offerings in the segment. "It definitely exceeded our expectations. So there are other products we are looking at now," stated John Merrell, TV product planning manager.Sony, which just began shipping its new overhead consoles, said it is too soon to gauge sell-through, but claimed the initial sell-in was very strong. "We are being fully assorted at all the major retailers, and we're one of the only, if not the only, manufacturer whose entire video lineup is being assorted at these stores, so expectations are very high," said a spokeswoman.
Helping to drive mobile video sales are new $249 price tags on low-end add-on DVD and new fully featured 6.5-inch overhead consoles for under $1,000. In addition, suppliers say demand continues for larger screen sizes.
Malone noted that "prices on DVD players have been coming down gradually over the last nine months to a year. Once the drawer style hit the market, the prices didn't hold very long. A number of Chinese marketers are supplying them and it's turned into a commodity, and is driving some volume. But it hasn't affected in-dash DVD."
A spokesman for Best Buy agreed that falling prices is driving sales. Best Buy is finding particular success with certain portable DVD systems. "The RCA portable center console at $579 is doing well, and we sell a Toshiba 9-inch TV/DVD combo with a car adapter plug at $359 which has been popular. The main thing is people prefer DVD. It's a more portable format, and as people move more into that in the home, it's a big benefit to take it into the car."
The spokesman added, "We're starting to see more customers buy into the overhead solution with flip-down screens since prices dropped below $1,000." He and others also attributed increasing sales to TV commercials by car makers that publicize the category.
Suppliers say larger screen sizes continue to gain in popularity. Icon TV began shipping in May what it claims is the only 9-inch widescreen overhead flip-down model available. The company says the unit is designed so that it doesn't take away any viewable space when the driver looks in his rearview mirror. It comes with a separate DVD player and two headphones at a suggested retail price of $1,900. This month, Icon plans to add a 15.1-inch version, also a widescreen with IR transmitter and headphones and DVD at $2,800.
Audiovox is also planning a 15-inch overhead with built-in IR and headphones to ship this summer. Said Malone, "Over the next six months we'll see increased sizes. Bigger in mobile video is better; 6.8-inch screens will be more prevalent, and we'll see 10-, 13- and 15-inch models. You'll see more headrest screens and more multiple-screen applications for multiple sourcing, so one kid can watch a video game and another watch a tape because those installations are now more affordable."
Audiovox also says it plans to debut overhead consoles with built-in satellite radio capability in the next four months. The consoles will be available for both XM and Sirius satellite radio services. "You're putting in entertainment systems in the back and you've invested the money for satellite radio, so now you can have the Disney stations, the comedy stations. You can send them back through the overhead and run it through the IR and let kids listen on wireless headphones in the back," said Malone.
TMI said it plans to relaunch its Back Seat Theater overhead video system in a new hardwired version in July. The system includes a monitor and speakers in a universal overhead system that originally relied on an RF transmitter to connect the product to a source unit so that it didn't require extensive wiring. "It wasn't as reliable as we would have liked," explained director of mobile electronics Warren Moran. The company will release a hard-wired version that will carry a lower price of $499.12-Volt Mobile Product Sales
|Average Price 4/01||$684.29|
|Average Price 4/01||$847.06|
|Average Price 4/02||$630.26|
|Average Price 4/01||$607.56|
|Average Price 4/02||$566.11|
|Average Price 4/01||$1,524.72|
|Average Price 4/02||$1,675.78|
|Average Price 4/01||$956.97|
|Average Price 4/02||$1,223.20|
|Average Price 4/01||$457.45|
|Average Price 4/02||$342.82|
|Average Price 4/01||$945.37|
|Average Price 4/02||$1,093.01|
|Average Price 4/01||$431.57|
|Average Price 4/02||$451.01|
|Average Price 4/01||$328.38|
|Average Price 4/02||$289.30|
|Source: NPDTechworld, Pt. Washington, N.Y.|
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