Pandora Car Radio Sell Through: 1st Look

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As best we can tell, Pandora radios, the head units from Alpine and Pioneer, that let users listen to Pandora from their phone through the car radio (and control Pandora from the car radio)—are selling just fine but not setting any records.
Pioneer says its AVIC-X920BT and AVIC-Z120BT are selling above expectations although its PandoraLink app required for the devices to work with Pandora is still awaiting approval by Apple. At that point the two units will be able to access Pandora from an iPhone and control it from the radio.
Alpine says its iDA-X305S is selling to plan “and it was an aggressive plan,” according to assistant VP Sales Mike Anderson. The company is now talking to other phone manufacturers beyond Apple and to other Internet Radio providers beyond Pandora. “We do believe that if people have Internet Radio, they want to use it in their car. I think it’s going to be [big] because more and more people are enjoying Internet radio. They want to take that every place they go. “
The radios, still new in the market at some retailers, are getting mixed reviews on dealer sell-through. A half dozen retailers (not exactly a big sample) are split down the middle between those saying customers are coming in and asking for Pandora car radios and those who say customers don’t know about it. Al & Ed’s Autosound in Los Angeles has already sold “quite a few” of the Pioneer Z120s in its first ten days on the shelves and claims that it acts as a good sales tool. “Any time a manufacturer ties into a cultural hit [Pandora] it’s a good thing…you can talk about it on the sales floor,” said product manager John Haynes.
Sound of Tristate, De. says customers are coming in and asking for the Pandora radios. It sold a dozen of the Pioneer 920s in 30 days and ran out. It’s reordered 24 more.
But World Wide Stereo of Hatfield, PA says it’s not getting any request from its customers. Dave Keenan, manager of the mobile dept. for the PRO Group retailer, says he’s getting more interest in installing an iPad. “At least a dozen have come in asking for iPads. People want what that offers in their dash. And manufacturers can’t offer it because they say it costs too much…I‘ve told manufacturers you can give us a $3,000 in dash [unit] and if it works like the iPad we can sell it. These people have an iPhone in their pocket; they’re accustomed to it and that’s where they hold their standard.” Keenan expects to see two or three installs of the device (but hasn’t scheduled one yet). The store sells close to a million in car AV/navigation sales a year.
Autosound of Lexington, Lexington KY said it just started stocking the $399 Alpine iDA-X305S but customers are not yet asking for it.
Jo-Di’s Sound Center of West Hartford, CT also said consumers don’t know about the Alpine radio but they are receptive to it once the store educates them.
We now know the OEMs are working on full fledged “app radios” of their own. See what Nokia, GM, and Harman are up to. And Ford will begin offering Pandora/Stitcher/Twitter-Feed voice control with the 2011 Ford Fiesta this summer.
The Alpine iDA-X305S and Pioneer AVIC-X920BT and AVIC-Z120BT work with an iPhone that connects to the radio via cable. Users then can control and listen to Pandora stations they’ve created already. The car radios let users input a thumbs up or thumbs down rating for each song (one of Pandora’s methods of tailoring music to your taste). Alpine’s unit is a CD-less radio with a built-in 2.2 inch display that shows Pandora album. The single DIN unit also controls Pandora from an iPod touch when the car is parked near a Wi-Fi hot spot. Pioneer’s models are both double DIN in-dash AV/navigation units. See story on the AVIC-Z120BT.
–Amy Gilroy
Source: CEoutlook

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