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Satellite Radio Boomboxes Selling Big As 12-Volt Add-On

2/23/2004 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Boomboxes, while not your average hot-selling item among car audio specialists, are getting some extra attention from 12-volt retailers as satellite radio models become more widespread.

Some retailers have found unusual success with the Delphi SkyFi boombox, known as the SkyFi Audio system. Crutchfield said half the consumers who buy a SkyFi plug-and-play radio purchase a matching boombox. Kentucky's Autosound of Lexington claimed the attachment rate is almost 100 percent. "Almost every person who buys a SkyFi will buy a boombox and 25 percent of our [satellite radio] business is with the SkyFi," said CEO Harvey Wright.

Delphi said its attachment rate during the second half of 2003 was 48 percent and that well over 200,000 SkyFi Audio systems shipped last year.

The market should see further growth as Sirius boomboxes, compatible with plug-and-play receivers from Audiovox and Xact, begin to ship. Although Sirius also showed a boombox prototype from JVC at CES, JVC said it does not plan to ship the prototype at present.

Audiovox began selling its $99 Sirius boombox in December and says it nearly sold out of its initial shipment of 10,000 units. The company expects to increase shipments in April to approximately 20,000 per month, according to Joe Caltabiano, satellite radio product manager.

Best Buy said it is happy with sales of the Delphi Audio system and that it achieved an attachment rate of over 25 percent through Christmas. Best Buy's business team leader of mobile electronics, Mike Manske, explained, "Consumer demand is definitely expanding beyond mobile."

The 12-volt chain Audio Ex-press, Phoenix, said the attachment rate for the Delphi boombox to SkyFi car radio sales is between 20 percent and 25 percent. Merchandise manager Paul Gosswiller was particularly interested in the Delphi boombox upgrade with CD player and MP3 due in March. Called the Delphi CD Audio system, it is expected to sell at approximately $199. The unit is able to play back CDs even while the SkyFi receiver is not in the boombox cradle, so "it can do something even when there's no receiver in it," Gosswiller said.

Not all retailers are claiming big success with satellite radio boomboxes. Some agree with Tom Olla, buyer for The Specialists in Tucson, Ariz., who noted, "Its not really our customer." Others say the margin on the product is minimal.

In July, Xact will begin shipping a line of three different boombox models, two of which were shown as prototypes at CES. They will include a basic unit, one with AM/FM tuner and one with AM/FM-/CD and MP3. Xact is focusing on a youthful design for its products and hopes to take the boombox to the "next level" where it "becomes a product that really strikes the consumer. We want to marry the service with some great looking products," said a spokesman.

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