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Pioneer Enters Portable GPS

Long Beach, Calif. — Pioneer, one of the last key autosound players to announce an entry into the booming portable navigation segment, said it will deliver its first portable navigation unit this June.

The new AVIC-S1 has preloaded maps of the United States and Canada, an SD card slot, built-in rechargeable battery and Bluetooth for hands-free cellphone calling. Suggested retail price is $599.

Until now, Pioneer, which claims to have a leading share of the $85 million fixed automotive U.S. navigation market, has steered clear of portable GPS—a 2 million unit segment with over 120 percent growth, by Pioneer’s own estimates.

Karen Rubin, marketing and product planning director for navigation, said the change of heart came from Pioneer’s research on its current in-dash navigation owners. Pioneer found that more than 30 percent of its AVIC navigation customers already owned a portable GPS. “From those results we [determined] that there’s a step-up logic of having a good experience with portable navigation and then wanting to look for something more,” she noted. Pioneer is therefore offering the AVIC-S1 portable as “an entry point” for navigation customers, said Rubin.

Other features of the AVIC-S1 include a 3.5-inch color touch screen, 2GB of flash memory for map storage and 1.5 million points of interest.

In navigation in general, Pioneer said its real-time traffic sales have picked up recently. Rubin said 40 percent of the in-dash navigation customers are now subscribing to XM NavTraffic. She noted that over 60 percent of AVIC owners “own some sort of satellite radio, and all of these customers will use their satellite radio over any other audio source such as CD or MP3 playback … If they already have XM audio, they are more inclined to try out XM NavTraffic,” she said. Pioneer is also examining other real-time traffic services using RDS or Sirius.

Separately, Pioneer announced a new multimillion dollar advertising campaign called “Drive Happier” to support its navigation systems. It also debuted a new in-dash car DVD/monitor, the AVH-P7800DVD, featuring DVD Audio, DiVX, and Bluetooth and iPod capability, due to ship in June at $2200.