In March, Directed appointed the founder of HD Radio, Robert Struble, as it’s new CEO. On Wednesday he came out to address dealers at the MRI remote start training show in Sturbridge, MA.
Directed is looking to broaden into new areas. “My charge is to find new growth,” Struble said. “There is a definite need to expand whether we’re looking at acquisition opportunities or expansion. At the high level, we know it will have to do with the connected car.”
Struble said what he brings to remote start from his experience creating HD Radio is knowledge of both the aftermarket and OEM markets. HD Radio was launched into the specialist channel first and then it became a feature in new cars. “It used to be that technology started in the aftermarket. Now it’s the opposite.” But he said that’s okay because the new tech starts in luxury cars and is heavily advertised, giving the aftermarket a chance to capitalize on it.
He pointed out heads up displays (HUDs), in particular, as a good opportunity for the aftermarket now as they are only available in a small percentage of new cars.
Struble admits that remote start is declining year to year as the feature becomes more common in new cars, but he says it’s declining much slower than the audio aftermarket side. Car audio is seeing double digit declines while remote start is dipping by single digits, he said.
Three to five years from now audio will still be the driver of sales for specialists predominantly, “but we have to be open to new business.” He told dealers that shifts in business models may be in the future where installation labor becomes a more important source of overall revenue.
Directed is looking at taking data from the car and creating new services. It might partner with retailers “on making money on data collection. Our job is to find these opportunities,” Struble told dealers. Directed already mines car and driving data for the usage based insurance market through its stake in the telematics company OCTO.
Among the opportunities Struble is exploring is vehicle to vehicle (V2V) technology. “We’re taking a look broadly… autonomous is coming and it will take a while…I have a firm belief there will need to be technology in the existing cars to make the whole system work. That may be sensing, imaging, V2V or V2I [vehicle to infrastructure, such as traffic lights]. “Yes, we’re looking very closely at it…I believe there will be opportunity there.”
Voice control over remote start from Alexa—Amazon’s voice assistant– or other voice platforms is something the company is exploring. “We haven’t seen a ton of demand for voice control, but it’s cool and it’s coming. So I would think eventually, we’ll be there,” Struble said.
Directed currently sells through a network of 3,000 storefronts. It claims to have about a 50 percent share of the remote start aftermarket. Its digital remote start systems are now 30 to 50 percent of sales compared to analog remote start, Struble told us.
The statements above were taken from an on stage interview at the MRI show where Amy Gilroy interviewed Struble, as well as comments before and after the interview.