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Car Security Combats Same Battles As Remote Start

NEW YORK — Car security is far from dead, but it is currently undergoing an evolution. The category has become increasingly tied into the one of remote start, and for better or worse, this means sales can be affected by conditions that are out of retailers’ hands — such as the weather.

Although consumers may have rejoiced at the mild winter that the Northeast received for 2011 through 2012 — a geographical area that Directed Electronics president Mike Simmons called the company’s bellwether — security and remote-start retailers and manufacturers were not nearly as overjoyed, and the season proved to be a bit of a flop. Most of the manufacturers and retailers TWICE spoke with said sales were either flat or down for the year, and all were hoping for a brutal and bitter (weather, that is) winter for the rest of 2012 and 2013.

Rod Fields, partner of Sound and Secure Auto Sounds in Detroit, a cold-weather location to be sure, said car security sales at his site were flat when compared with the prior year. While he agreed that weather always plays a role in the popularity remote-start products, he said security sales had been down for the category in recent years, and that they were “about the same this year.”

Michael Baruch, president of One Way Auto Sports in Brooklyn, N.Y., echoed this sentiment, noting that car security sales were down for this year vs. last year. He also cited the warm weather as a driving factor.

To combat this, manufacturers are enhancing their products to go beyond the traditional parameters of remote starting and car security protection. Simmons highlighted the SmartFence feature of Directed’s SmartStart-capable products, which, among other things, enables parents to implement restrictions on their teens’ driving parameters and to receive notifications when the teens don’t comply.

“That always-on persistent connectivity to the car has really enabled a lot of interesting value propositions around keeping your family safe, not just keeping your car safe,” Simmons said.

Audiovox Electronics president Tom Malone in turn pointed to the company’s Car Connection plug-in OBDII product as being able to appeal to several different audiences: the 12-volt community, auto insurance companies, CRM and fleet management.

When asked whether he thought products that are strictly car security (those that do not incorporate remote start) would eventually become phased out, Malone said, “It’s hard to say that anything phases out — you can still buy cassette decks. As a relevant category, [car security] will continue to be a smaller portion until it’s somewhat irrelevant. That will be few years from now.”

Although car security devices without remote start do better in warmer climates, Malone said it’s only a matter of time before consumers realize the benefits of remote start in the high-temperature locations.