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Audiovox Debuts Car Computer

New York — Audiovox gave a preview of its fall and winter lineup, which included its first car computer and plans to add high-speed Internet capability to its new auto-based SkyBox satellite TV system.

In home products, the company said it will more aggressively pursue the widescreen flat-panel TV market next year, and will introduce a broader model lineup at International CES in January with aggressive pricing.

Leading Audiovox’s new 12-volt products is the company’s rooftop mobile satellite TV system called SkyBox, produced by RaySat. Audiovox will ship the product in quantity over the next 30 days and announced that it expects to add high-speed Internet capability to the system in three months. Further, the company hopes to reduce the size of the SkyBox rooftop antenna, which is about 5.7 inches high and measures about as wide as a car roof, to a narrower 9 inches in a year, said senior sales VP Tom Malone at a press briefing, here.

Initially the SkyBox will ship preprogrammed to receive the DISH Network, but it will also be able to receive other DBS services in the future. The SkyBox will carry a suggested retail price of $2995.99.

Malone admits the market “isn’t massive volume now, but good volume.” Following the briefing, he said the 12-volt satellite TV market for passenger cars sits at about 10,000 to 15,000 units annually. “We see that doubling with our entry in the first year,” Malone said, adding the market could easily expand by 30 percent a year, even without the technology advances that should drive prices down and help downsize the antennae in the next few years. “You now have more cars with OE screens, so there’s more of an opportunity for an attachment,” Malone said.

Audiovox acknowledged that the market for 12-volt car computing is also a small niche at present. The company will offer a single-DIN 1,000MHz computer under the Jensen brand that offers 512MB of memory and a 40GB hard drive. It will run on Windows and will be able to link to a keyboard or cellphone, for Internet access, via front and rear USB ports. In the future, the computer will be able to interface with the SkyBox for high-speed Internet, Malone said. Future versions of the computer will also include Bluetooth capability. The unit will carry a suggested retail price of $1,699, without monitor.

Audiovox also showed a new “every man’s” rear backup sensor that is designed to be self-installed at a suggested retail price of $199. The two-piece unit has a rear sensor that attaches to the trailer hitch connection found on more than 90 percent of new SUVs, according to Audiovox. An RF module is then plugged into the car’s cigarette lighter. When the car is in reverse, the unit issues warning beeps when an object is detected behind the vehicle.

Also introduced was one of the first two-way remote start/alarm systems that sends text messages to the transceiver to confirm all commands.