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Escort, Cobra Making Plans To Expand Radar-Detector Market

Cedar Electronics, formed by the June merger of Escort and Cobra Electronics, is making big plans.

The merged companies will “collaborate to build a greater awareness” of radar detectors, revitalize the Beltronics radar brand, and create more differentiation between the Escort and Beltronics brands, Cedar marketing VP Mark Karnes told TWICE.

The merger will also bring more sophisticated technology, such as digital signal processing, to the value-priced Cobra radar brand, he said.

In another change, Cedar will merchandise the Escort, Beltronics, and Cobra radar brands together in specialty electronics and mobile electronics stores for the first time. In the past, the Escort and Beltronics brands were sold through specialty stores, with value-priced Cobra sold largely in mass merchants and in some specialty stores. Cobra radar will continue to be sold in mass merchants, but the expansion of the brand to more specialty stores will help Cobra reach more consumers, Karnes said.

“All three [brands] are specialty products with different value propositions,” he added.

Cedar will also promote and merchandise Cobra dash cams more aggressively and bring them to electronics specialty stores and automotive stores. The products were previously sold largely through truck stops and CB radio stores to professional drivers, but expansion into consumer channels will reach the influx of a new type of professional driver who works for ride-sharing companies and sees dash cams as “threat protection,” he said.

Building awareness: Though the radar-detector market has been flat for the past few years, sales potential is growing because “Americans are being ticketed at an accelerating rate,” Karnes said. He cited the expansion of red-light cameras and cash-starved municipal and county governments.

Through more robust consumer promotion, Cedar will raise awareness of the threat to consumers’ wallets and reverse misperceptions that radar detectors represent “an old and outdated technology,” Karnes said. He pointed to detectors with built-in GPS and databases of known red-light cameras and speed traps as well as smartphone apps that use crowd sourcing to let drivers know, through alerts from a Bluetooth-connected radar detector, that a driver is entering an area where police radar was recently used.

New radar products “incorporate intelligence about any threat impacting drivers’ wallets,” Karnes said. “There’s no reason for Americans who use these solutions to ever receive another ticket.”

Cedar plans to run print and digital ads, promote through social media and press relations, and launch new POS materials.

The company will show new products at the Nov. 3-6 SEMA show in Las Vegas and follow up at CES “to show the full depth” of the company’s new programs, promotions and merchandising tools due in the spring “to revive the business,” he said.

Product differentiation: A new Beltronics detector at SEMA will highlight how the company will differentiate the Beltronics brand from Escort. “Bel and Escort used to compete head-to-head,” Karnes said. With the SEMA debut of the first detector in the Beltronics GT-7 range, Beltronics will be targeted to “assertive drivers,” including muscle-car owners, for whom “threat protection is a must-have,” Karnes said. Assertive cosmetics and performance technologies such as DSP will be promoted to the target base.

Beltronics products range from $249 to $499, which is the price of the first GT-7 product.  More products in the range will arrive over the next year.

The Escort brand will continue to offer higher-priced products with cutting-edge technology targeted to luxury-car owners at $300 to $649 for dash-mount detectors to up to $2,500 for installed models, including labor.

Cobra will remain in the value tier, positioned as “accessible threat protection” at prices from less than $99 to $400, but with new technologies such as DSP. “We can have technology not available in Cobra before,” Karnes said. The first Cobra detectors with DSP shipped in July.

“Cobra has always been the market-share leader in the value area,” he said.

Cobra portfolio: Though big in radar, Cobra is also know for a variety of driver-related products such as dash cams, which have been available for three years and sold largely through truck stops and CB stores. With new products planned for later this year and more to come later, Cobra will offer the “visual protection capabilities of dash cams” to a broader customer segment.

Distribution will be expanded in electronics-store and automotive-store channels.

“We plan over tome to put a lot more emphasis on consumer dash-cam promotion and helping retailers grow the business,” Karnes said. “Mobile electronics retailers are just scratching the surface yet in dash cams.”

New dash-cam products planned for this year have been “designed from the ground up” for consumers, he said.

Cobra will also remain in a variety of other categories such as portable jump starters, two-way and marine radios, and in-vehicle power inverters. In fact, the company has begun to expand its inverter selection beyond models sold through truck stops and CB stores to commercial truckers. The company will expand its selection with more consumer-targeted models and expand distribution to electronics specialists and automotive chains.