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New M.E.S.A. 12-Volt Buying Group Launches

11/16/2009 11:14:58 AM Eastern

Austin, Texas - Several prominent car audio
independent specialists recently launched a new buying group under the name
Mobile Electronics Specialists of America (MESA).

The group is member-owned and focuses on marketing and branding.
Through pooling marketing expenses, MESA is able
to give its members a choice of 10 custom radio ads for $175 for production, as
well as an ultra-low-cost cable TV ad, said Mike
Cofield, president of MESA and president of
Austin, Texas-based Custom Sounds.

In addition, the group hopes to solve some vexing industry issues
relating to vendor closeouts and product returns, Cofield said.

Most vendors turn to large chains to handle closeout deals, but MESA will act as a clearinghouse so that vendors can learn
within 72 hours whether collective MESA
members can handle a large closeout.

In addition the top tier of MESA
members will be required to bench-test products to help eliminate returns to
the vendor and headaches for the retailer.

Other members of MESA's board of directors include MESA VP John
Coleman, president of Stereo King, Portland, Ore., as well as Rick Snelson,
president of Car Fi, Springfield, Miss.; Charlie Weisel, president of The
Specialists, Tucson, Ariz.; and Mehdi Narimanian, president of Sound of Tri
State, Claymont, Del.

MESA
said it will appoint two additional board members within the next 30 days, and
vendor partnerships will begin to be announced with the next 10 days.

Narimanian said MESA hopes to
attract 50 top retailers.

Part of the inspiration for MESA
came from the 12-Volt Awareness Initiative, said Narimanian. "We're
finding out that consumers don't exactly know what we sell anymore ... It's
taking the 12-Volt Initiative and making it happen," he added, noting that
retailers can often act quicker than vendors.

MESA also plans to launch a
national Web site with a ZIP code finder to locate retailers, in addition to
radio and cable advertising, said Narimanian. A customized magazine that may be
sent to customers is also available, again, at a much lower cost than is
typical, said Cofield.

For its part, In
Car Experts (ICE),
the buying group started in 2006, now with approximately
250 member storefronts, is launching a national Web site with a ZIP code finder
to locate retailers in the next 10 days, said executive director Rob Elliott.

MESA will have a two-tiered membership
of associate members and owner members. Owner members must share their
sell-rate and inventory level with vendors, must agree to report The NPD Group,
and must agree to a rigorous returns and quality-control process that includes
bench-testing products.

Cofield said returns are a huge industry problem for both vendors
and retailers.  It is not unusual that a
head unit will be returned to the vendor without a description of the problem,
so it is difficult for the vendor to fix the unit.  Since the vendor can't find a problem, he
returns the unit to the retailer, who puts it in another customer's car only to
have the customer return four days later, complaining.  MESA will
require retailers to report specific defects in returned products to avoid this
circle of missteps, said Cofield.