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Suppliers Look To Expedite In-Dash Nav

 New York — With sales falling in rear-seat entertainment, some video suppliers are eyeing the vehicle’s front seat, hoping to enter the new market of expediter in-dash navigation radios that look similar to factory radios.

The appeal of these radios is they offer a lower-priced alternative to factory navigation, but they retain the factory “look.”

While many consumers say they want in-dash navigation, when they go to purchase a new car, they are turned off by price tags in the $2,400 range and sometimes in the $5,000 range if navigation is bundled with other features.

Rosen is launching a new line of factory look-a-like in-dash audio/video/navigation (AVN) units this year and Vizualogic and Concept say they are examining the market.

Dual is also planning to enter the category at some point following this year, and Valor will show a new line at International CES in January, after offering a single unit since late last year.

Audiovox did not ship the look-a-like radios it announced last year, but is expected to deliver new models with added features during the first half of 2009.

Many of those expressing interest in the category are rear-seat entertainment companies, who have watched a portion of their sales disappear as more new cars ship with rear-seat video systems as standard equipment and as sales of SUVs wane (see story above).

Look-a-like radios are designed to easily drop into factory openings and connect through a simple wiring harness. They also usually offer the sexier upgrade features such as Bluetooth hands-free calling, Sirius or XM satellite radio, iPod compatibility or all of the above.

Priority Audio said its sales of look-a-like radios are better than expected so that three models are now in backorder. The company launched a line eight months ago, and said sales for the recent quarter topped the previous quarter by 20 percent.

Priority Audio national sales manager Bill Heinlein said, “There’s strong demand for navigation at a good price point. Most of my guys are putting it in for $1,299. That makes a lot more sense than $2,400, plus you get back up camera input, Bluetooth, iPod and satellite radio.”

Rosen will offer four individual factory look-a-like all-in-one DVD/monitor/navigation units that will fit, respectively, the Toyota Corolla, Honda CRV, Toyota Camry and up to seven Volkswagen vehicles: the EOS, Golf, GTI, Jetta, Passat, Rabbit and Tiguan.

All of the models include touchscreen navigation, DVD player, built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling, iPod control with an optional cable and AM/FM plus XM capability. They also have a front-panel USB port and SD card slot, but they don’t have USB iPod control. And they include dual-zone capability so video can play in the rear seat while the radio plays in the front seat.

The units will ship before the end of the year at $1,749 each. A universal model designed to fit double-DIN openings in most vehicles will also be available. It will offer the same features and a 6.5-inch screen at a suggested $1,499.

Rosen’s factory look-a-like radios come with a three-year warranty if purchased within 60 days of buying the car. The units ship with direct plug-in harnesses for the appropriate vehicle, and many support steering-wheel control.

Concept and Vizualogic are also examining the market. Vizualogic product marketing manager Kevin Kraack called it “a natural progression” to expand to the front seat.

Valor said it will also show new models at SEMA next month.