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Remote Start Under Mother Nature’s Thumb

NEW YORK — You can have all the consumer education and marketing programs in the world, but when it comes to the remote-start category, a helping hand from Mother Nature is simply required for a solid season.

TWICE spoke with several of the major remote-start manufacturers last week, and nearly all agreed that while the winter of 2012 to 2013 hadn’t been the worst in a while, it also hadn’t been the best.

Audiovox Electronics president Tom Malone called this winter “acceptable,” noting that the weather in the Northeast — a location generally considered to be the bellwether of the industry — warmed up in the middle of the season. The company was flat to a point or two off, he said, adding, “Honestly, the way the remote-start season started and where we ended up, I’m very happy where we ended up what our sales guys did and what our customers did.”

Crimestopper president Howard Miller echoed this sentiment, saying, “It was an interesting season to say the least. The preseason was pretty good. We ramped up pretty good, [and] we did well pre-Christmas. Then all of a sudden it died — right between Christmas and New Years. That’s unusual.”

Both Miller and Chris Fierek, Directed marketing director, pointed to the recent storms and dropping temperatures as being helpful. “It could always be better than what it’s been,” said Fierek. “The warmer temps impacted us, but the cooling down and random storms helped us here and there.”

Despite the weather’s uncooperative behavior, remotestart makers pushed full-steam ahead with their consumer education endeavors. They have received a helping hand in this area from the OEMs, several of which are including remote start as factory additions. Whereas the product was once seen as a fringe luxury, this is no longer the case thanks to the OEMs and the ramped-up marketing efforts of the industry.

Also assisting is simpler installation, Miller said. “There are less wires to cut, and using the data module technology is getting better and better, allowing installation to go smoother with less wires to contend with. I’m expecting the business to grow.”

Also thanks to these efforts, the remote-start category is gaining traction in areas with warmer climates, as consumers are learning the benefits of cooling their cars prior to getting in them.

As for what’s in store for the “off season,” most details are still being held under wraps by the companies TWICE spoke with, but Malone did say that Audiovox will be shipping the next iteration of its Car Connection plug-in telematics device.