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Sirius Outlines Plans, Debuts Panasonic Unit

9/30/2002 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Sirius Satellite Radio teamed last week with Panasonic to officially unveil the first Sirius-ready Panasonic car receiver, which is shipping now.

Panasonic's Sirius FM modulator receiver is expected to help boost Sirius' product availability in time for the fourth quarter.

Panasonic joins Kenwood in delivering significant quantities of Sirius products. Other suppliers are Clarion, Jensen and Audiovox.

Sirius CEO Joe Clayton said Sirius was in the process of escalating its marketing presence through a stepped-up advertising campaign that began Labor Day and includes 2,000 to 2,500 TV spots through the rest of the year. "With the combination of the marketing campaign and brands like Panasonic, as well as adding Sears to our other retail partners, I like my chances."

Panasonic said it has the capacity to build 1 million Sirius radios. Clayton said Sirius still expects 250,000 to 300,000 radios to be available by the end of the year, with about half that at stores by October-November. He also said Sirius still hopes to achieve a 75,000-subscription base this year.

Two major stumbling blocks for the company, which is still a runner-up in sales to XM Satellite Radio, is the securing of another round of financing and Ford's seeming delay in announcing when it will offer Sirius as an option on Ford vehicles. Clayton said he expects positive announcements on both fronts in the next few weeks.

"We are close to completing financing with new monies from existing shareholders and converting existing debt into equity," said Clayton. He also stated that a deal with Ford "is very close. It's just a matter of signing legal documents."

He added, "I'm a little concerned that retail hasn't been robust but I think we'll have a good fall. We're only two to three weeks into our advertising campaign and the take rate [on subscriptions] has improved dramatically."

For its part, Panasonic formally unveiled the CR-SRF 100 FM modulator/receiver at $229.99, which works with any car radio. Panasonic said it would also ship 11 Sirius-ready car audio head units and DVD players in January and February 2003.

The CR-SRF 100 comes with a controller and offers scrolling by channel, category, song title and artist name. It will be joined in January by a Sirius tuner, which works with Panasonic head units at a suggested retail price of $159.99.