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3/02/2004 01:25:00 PM Eastern

New York - New overhead mobile video monitors with built-in DVD players may quickly overtake traditional "separates" overhead monitors, manufacturers reported.

Sales of these combo products have escalated significantly in the past three to four months, said Rosen Entertainment, Corona, Calif., with DVD-based overheads now accounting for 65 percent of its overhead sales. Audiovox claims the same sales ratio, despite that the DVD units were first introduced only a year ago.

Audiovox product manager David Shalam said the units will overtake all but the low end of the market. "There will always be [the separates] market but it will get smaller and smaller. The all-in-one pieces look better, but the separate systems are less expensive and always will be."

Some retailers, however, say the market will stabilize at about 50 percent of sales. Rob Lewis, owner of Extreme Audio, Manchester, Conn., formerly known as Pirate Radio, said some customers prefer separates. "Some vehicles require a thinner unit where only a monitor will work," he noted.

Freeman’s Car Stereo, Charlotte, N.C., said the all-in-one overhead products are already at 50 percent of its overhead dollar sales and will settle at that level. "There’s a significant portion of people who don’t like the idea that if something happens to the DVD, they have to replace the whole thing," said David Richardson, VP/chief operating officer. He notes, however, that the all-in-one pieces are particularly popular with the car expediter market.

Jo-Di’s in Hartford, Conn., said all-in-one overhead sales are outpacing separate monitors at a ratio of ten to one.

"I feel that eventually, DVD overhead mobile video will push out other two-piece options. They give the customer the convenience of having everything in one place—as opposed to having to go into your glove box to load a DVD," said Dan Jeancola, Tweeter’s mobile electronics VP.

While the expediter market has been the leader in all-in-one sales, Rosen Entertainment said the retail aftermarket should quickly catch up this year.

"You are going to see a transition at the retailers in 2004. Brands like Sony and Panasonic now offer it and mass merchants will love it because it cuts down on installation time," said Steve Weimar, sales and marketing VP of Rosen.

All-in-one overhead monitors are selling at about a $150 to $250 premium over separate monitors plus a DVD, suppliers said.

Directed Electronics now offers three overheads with built-in DVD and will double that by the end of the year. "We’re seeing it take over the market because of ease of installation," said video product manager James Turner. New models include the 10-inch overhead OHD1040, which ships this month at $999. Audiovox now offers ten all-in-one models and Rosen supplies seven.

Audiovox says the same trend will take hold in headrest monitors in the near future. The company is shipping in April the first headrest monitor with built-in DVD. Called the HRDV700, the system includes two custom headrests with embedded 7-inch screens — one with a built-in DVD player. The custom headrests will initially be available for General Motors, Lexus and Toyota vehicles, with products for Ford, Lincoln, Honda, Acura, LandRover, BMW and Mercedes to follow in 45 days, said Shalam. The HRDV700 system includes a built-in FM modulator for playing audio through the car's audio system and an IR transmitter. It also has dual-source capability at an estimated price of $1,799.

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