Industry members including the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) took issue with the Dept. of Labor calling car audio installers one of the fastest declining professions.
Danielle Cassagnol of the CTA said, “The labor report doesn’t fully capture the growth we’re seeing in this category. It was narrowly focused on audio and navigation.” She pointed out that there’s growth in automotive electronics in areas including driver safety and fleet sales.
“There’s growth in automotive technology as a whole for vehicles and there’s growth coming from dashcams, safety features, backup cameras and more,” she said.
Others in the industry said the report does not seem to take into view the expansion of car audio into side markets including fabrication and customization.
Brian Schmitt of Mobile Solutions regularly trains car audio installers, and said, “There’s a lot of fabricators out there or guys customizing who have diversified. Some have two, three or four week lead times to take on new customers because they are so busy. If guys …are doing business the same way they did 90’s style then I could see that being the case. But the guys integrating and changing with the times are very successful.”
The report said the number of car audio installers will fall by half between 2014 and 2024.
Cassagnol said that industry members ironically are finding they are short staffed rather than over staffed. Chris Cook of the Mobile Electronics group also said one of the consistent findings from its retail members is that they are looking for more installers. “From speaking with retailers and looking at our annual job surveys, we have a high amount of retailers that say they are looking for a person to hire. …At every event we attend we get the same exact thing…that we need people. ”
CEoutlook obtained more in-depth data from the Dept. of Labor, looking at installers who specifically work at electronics stores as opposed to automotive stores, tire stores and other venues.
The Dept of Labor says that the actual rate of job decline between 2014 and 2024 for installers at electronics/appliance stores is 55 percent. The rate of decline for installers at automobile dealers is 43.5 percent and the decline at auto parts and tire stores is 47.5 percent.
You can see the specific places of installer employment in the chart below. The column “Percent change” shows the decline projected from 2014 to 2024.
But Cook says even that is not reliable. “That line item factors in a lot of businesses outside of the mobile electronics specialty retailer. They are accounting for appliance stores, electronics stores such as Radio Shack and others that will continue to go away. The Dept of Labor is not a reliable source to understand and report on our specific category. Their numbers don’t accurately reflect our industry.”
Steve Witt of American Road Products commented, “I would respectfully submit that the US Department of Labor does not have the methodology to accurately capture our industry data. First the ambiguity of category buckets renders the data suspect immediately. Second, based on my past experiences with US Department of Labor data, our industry segment is too small to be statically significant, therefore ever more fallible.”
He added, “Based on what I am experiencing first-hand with the growth of the aftermarket vehicle electronics categories like safety (consumer and commercial), video telematics and GPS telematics and EDL, our industry is growing. … Fellow industry folks, only those willing to change will grow…”
The CTA noted that it recently earmarked $1 million for job growth and that a portion of that will go to the Mobile Electronics Certified Professional (MECP) program that helps certify car audio installers.
MECP is one of 5 CTA programs to receive the funding as announced at CES in January. We don’t know the exact amount to be earmarked for the MECP but funding is expected to go to a new outreach web site for the MECP as well as streamlined testing. The MECP is also creating a video series to walk installers though the process of certification including obtaining study materials and testing. Todd Ramsey who works with the MECP program said, “We’ll be promoting the videos to high school counselors, and schools throughout the US.” Filming begins later this month and should be finished this summer.
You can see the full announcement on the CTA $1 million program here.