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Audiovox Repositioning 12-Volt A/V Brands

Audiovox Electronics is restructuring the positioning and distribution of its 12-volt audio/video brands to make full use of the brands that it acquired last year from Recoton.

One goal is to reposition the Audiovox name as the premier line for independent 12-volt specialists, said Tom Malone, senior VP of Audiovox Electronics (see p. 30). The company wants to piggyback onto the brand building it has done with high-end Audiovox-branded car video and with Audiovox-branded cellular, he said. The company will also resurrect the long-dormant Phase Linear name.

Here’s what the company plans in each of its distribution channels:

Mass merchants: The Phase Linear name, dormant under Recoton’s ownership, will be revived for use on promotional clamshell-packaged car audio for mass merchant channels. These channels previously sold the company’s Rampage car audio brand, launched about three years ago, although the channel promoted Rampage products as Audiovox-made. The first Phase Linear products will be shown at CES. The Rampage brand is being phased out.

National and regional power CE retailers: For this channel, the Jensen name will be applied to mid-end car audio and select mobile multimedia products. Products include an in-dash single-DIN DVD-Video player with retractable screen, which will be promoted at $799.

12-volt specialists: The Audiovox brand will become primarily a mobile multimedia line, with some car audio SKUs. The products will be available mainly to independent 12-volt specialists. The Prestige car audio brand, marketed to independent specialists and expediters alike, will be phased out.

Expediters: This channel will get Advent-branded installed mobile video for overhead and headrest mounting. The Prestige brand of car audio for independent specialists and expediters will be phased out. Expediters also have access to the company’s other 12-volt brands if a particular product is needed occasionally to fill a particular need, Malone said.

Automotive chains: Phase Linear will be used for opening price point products for this channel. The chains will also have access to Jensen-branded products, but they’ll most likely limit themselves to aggressively priced Jensen CD-receivers rather than higher priced Jensen multimedia products, Malone said. The company’s accounts include Auto Zone and Pep Boys.

In car security and remote-start systems, the company will continue to sell the Pursuit brand to expediters and Prestige to 12-volt specialists. Code-Alarm will continue of offer an expediter and retail program, typically 12-volt specialists but also including Circuit City.

In a related development, Audiovox will hold a Nov. 1 shareholder meeting to vote on selling its cellular subsidiary to UTStarcom, which would continue to use the Audiovox name on cellphones for at least five years.

UTStarcom is a wireless-handset and telecom-infrastructure supplier based in Alameda, Calif. Audiovox cellular’s three facilities and 269 employees will become UTStarcom’s North and South American handset sales, service and support division, which will be headed by current subsidiary president/CEO Phil Christopher.

UTStarcom claims to be the largest wireless-handset supplier to the China market, where it sells wireless handsets and infrastructure based on the Personal Handyphone System (PHS) standard.