Hauppauge, N.Y. - Audiovox Corp. has officially changed its name to VOXX International.
In an exclusive interview with TWICE, chairman and founder
John Shalam and president/CEO Pat Lavelle explained that the reason for the
change is to reflect the many brand acquisitions the company has made over the
past several years.
Shalam said, "The character of the firm has changed dramatically" in the past several years. "Audiovox continues to be a good brand, but it is associated as a good, value CE line available at an attractive price. But with the acquisitions of Klipsch, RCA and others Audiovox doesn't really describe what the company is today."
VOXX has a host of brands in the CE and automotive industries. In the U.S. the brands are: Audiovox, RCA, Acoustic Research, Jensen, Advent, Code Alarm, Invision, Prestige, Omega, Excalibur, Pursuit, Terk and Surface - as well as Klipsch, which is also an international brand. On the international side VOXX also has Jamo, Energy, Mirage, Mac Audio, Magnat, Heco, Schwaiger and Oehlback.
Lavelle said the Audiovox name "doesn't reflect who we are now and is confusion to consumers and our customer base when you [operate] a lot of brands. It is a matter of perception."
He added that since VOXX International is public its name needed to "accurately portray to the investment community and new investors who we are."
Questions about the company's name began when VOXX purchased the RCA accessories line, Lavelle said. "We bought a well-known brand and had a well-known brand of our own, but we wrestled with how to get that message out. It culminated when we acquired Klipsch. We wanted to make sure that consumers realized that the culture of Klipsch will remain intact and was still being run by the same management team that honors its tradition and quality."
He said that the "simple name change" to VOXX International "will make it clearer to everyone that we own individual brands in the U.S. and Europe and we can manage them differently depending upon how each one goes to market."
As Shalam put it, "We came to the conclusion about the name change in the last couple of months internally, and then had discussions with investors that we needed a name to reflect our global business."
VOXX has been the long-standing stock symbol of the company, something that its management and investors liked, Shalam said.
Lavelle said the company didn't want the company's name to have "Holdings Corp." in the name because, "We are much more than that. We operate companies. Domestically we handle all IT, credit and other operations. We are not only an investor [in brands] but the operator. We are almost like a hybrid company, but we are not like private equity companies that want to sell companies three or four years later."
He said VOXX's goal remains to "Invest in right companies [and] help them operate more efficiently. We want to grow companies."
When asked if the name change means that VOXX International will be more active in acquiring companies, Lavelle said, "We say at the end of all our investor calls that we are still actively engaged in acquisitions [for growth]. But we also look for organic growth within our current brands via new product introductions."
As for the "International" part of its name, Lavelle said that VOXX is strong in Europe, Mexico, China and parts of South America and that currently its sales are 70 percent in the U.S. and 30 percent internationally, "with a 60/40 split in the near future and a goal of 50/50 eventually."
Concerning the current market Lavelle said "it may be too early to tell" if higher sales on Black Friday mean a strong holiday sales season, but "it is a good indication that consumers are coming back in. But the rest of the Christmas season has to play out... but initial reports are positive."
As for the new year, Lavelle said that new products and categories planned for International CES next month "gives us further opportunities... for strong profitability. What we have done over the past five or six years years is a lot of SKU rationalization and line rationalization. So we remain in profitable portion of CE space. In the automotive space we believe we will see more growth. U.S. car manufacturing was 17.5 million, then it went down to 9 million [during the recession]. It is now 12.7 to 13 million now and it should go to 14 million in 2012. We hope the consumer is more confident."
In the overall economy Shalam sees a "gradual improvement in job creation. Housing should improve in the second half, due to better job creation. Car sales will grow. There is still a lot of cash on corporate balance sheets. The â€˜gloom and doom' will end and even the European debt crisis... will have at least a temporary solution. Next year will be more positive."