Car Audio 5 Years From Now

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car radio future

Good opportunities are ahead for the car audio aftermarket based on new technologies coming down the pike.

So says former Kenwood Executive VP Keith Lehmann.

Five years from now there will be fewer traditional brands in the aftermarket and there will be newer brands entering.  “You can’t make money selling a connected product for $99, so [car audio] companies will diversify their business into other areas,” said Lehmann. “But you will have new brands from companies entering the market to solve specific problems with black box solutions that will deliver new features.”

Keith Lehmann
Keith Lehmann

Car audio dealers will also diversify more deeply into fleet sales, ignition interlock systems, municipal fleets and other areas, he said.

Over the next two years, Lehmann sees CarPlay and Android Auto as technologies that could help arrest the annual sales declines in car audio. The car companies will require years to ramp up these new technologies giving the aftermarket an advantage.

It’s the familiar interfaces of CarPlay and Android Auto that will help drive sales. So when a driver’s radio breaks, he’ll seek out this new technology from a car audio shop, if he’s not ready for a new car.  “It’s going to provide, for the first time, a more familiar experience for users. They are not going to need to learn a new menu hierarchy and figure out what the buttons do,” he explained.

Then there’s the big budget advertising expected for CarPlay/Android Auto on the part of the car companies. Lehmann admitted the big advertising campaigns for infotainment haven’t really helped the aftermarket until now but things may now change, because “CarPlay and Android Auto meet the expectations” of the new generation of millennials entering car ownership, more than car tech has in the past.

A few years down the road vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology will give the aftermarket a boost. With V2V, cars communicate with each other and directly with city infrastructure like traffic lights. The Fed is expected to issue a mandate by the end of this year requiring this technology in new cars by a certain date. With vehicles “talking to each other” over a dedicated WiFi band, drivers will get warnings if they are about to make a left turn into traffic. Or they might be warned when another car is about to run a red light.

The Fed is aggressively pushing V2V because it could prevent almost 600,000 crashes and 1,000 deaths a year.   And since V2V is most effective when every car has it, Lehmann believes the Fed may mandate that used cars also incorporate a retrofit version of V2V, similar to its mandate in the past for emissions testing.

If this happens, car audio retailers may become a destination for retrofiting V2V technology.  Dealers will likely need to receive certification to work on the new V2V systems, which may take the form of sensors mounted on the four corners of the car. It’s possible that car dealerships would handle cars under warranty, but other car owners would be free to visit repair and car audio shops. He suggests car audio dealers closely watch developments in V2V and be ready to pounce on any opportunities.

Lehmann also sees consumers coming into aftermarket shops for parking assist products in the future.

Lehmann is currently Managing Director of the Connected Car Council and contributing author to the C3 Report (cthreereport.com). He is also a a technology and automotive consultant.

Top photo via New Scientist

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3 Comments

  1. I agree, new technology will be helpful. We are already seeing it with CarPlay units. Android has been slower, but the higher price point due to 7″ screen size, combined with very few phones currently running a compatible OS has been a big part of the hold back. In general, I think AndroidAuto will be slower in the aftermarket, despite a “larger” installed user base due to the fact that so many android phones are free/promo so it’s not a client investing extra money in them to begin with.

    Hopefully we don’t see the day of inexpensive CarPlay or AndroidAuto decks. This is the first time in a long time we have a truly compelling product for clients, that as Keith says – is easy to use, with a low learning curve. We don’t need to race to 0 on this. Hopefully Alpine, Kenwood, Pioneer, JVC etc are listening and have learnt the race to 0 lesson.

  2. It is nice seeing positive news about our industry. While I think we have a bright future, it is good to see positive media exposure.

  3. the take up by customers at my store for android is very low. the android owner demographics are
    much more down market than ios/apple owners who have money to spend.

    v2v is a pipe dream. it will not deploy. just something to give the governors and writers something
    to do.
    also found the take up of advanced safety, other than backup sensors and cameras disappointing.

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