12 Volt Trends for 2020

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car stereo outlook for 2020

A number of product trends for 2020 were apparent at the recent CES in Las Vegas and KnowledgeFest in Long Beach, CA. Suppliers are offering increasingly larger screen sizes, up to 11 inches from a leading brand (Alpine).  2020 will see more all-wireless radios offering both wireless CarPlay and wireless Android Auto.  Built in Alexa is growing more prevalent in car radios, even, finally, double DIN radios.

More brands, such as Focal and Diamond Audio, are aggressively moving into direct fit speaker systems that can drop-in to specific vehicles.

There’s a continued push into Hi-Res Audio and high end audio with brands such as JBL and Infinity about to offer a super high end system.

We’re seeing more 4G dashcams that let you peer into and around the car in real time so if you car is dinged while in the parking lot, you can see what’s going on either live or by recorded video.

Both suppliers and retailers say diversification is the watchword for 2020.  Pioneer is moving into blind spot detection.  In 2019, we saw Kenwood diversifying into accessories such as Qi chargers and expanding its dashcam line.  JVC will soon offer an electronic air purifier.  Dealers and suppliers have been pushing into powersports and motorcycle audio, and although these are now crowded markets, they should remain important ones for 2020, suppliers said.

Al & Ed’s Autosound, of Southern California, believes the biggest challenge in 2020 will be store traffic given millennials’ preference for shopping online.  “You can’t broad brush them all as being the same, but in general, they don’t like to go to stores, any store: clothing store, food store. They like to purchase online.  So it’s hard. That will continue to be the number one problem for brick and mortar and I’m not talking about combating Amazon’s crazy prices. I’m talking about a whole generation of people who don’t like to shop.  I think that will be the challenge going forward,” said Product Manager John Haynes.

John Haynes of Al & Ed’s Autosound, Los Angeles

Al & Ed’s counters the trend by going to car, boat and other local shows.  It takes a booth at the LA Auto Show “the length of a football field,” said Haynes.  About 18,000 people walk by and are exposed to aftermarket 12 volt products.

Stereo King in Oregon has another concern.  During the recent Black Friday, in the local print circulars, “Best Buy didn’t have one mention of 12 volt.  Car Toys didn’t do a print flier. Maybe they just went digital only. We were the only one in the Oregonian [state newspaper]….That’s our direction for the new year, to figure out how to do that better and engage with the market and make sure people are aware of what they can add to their cars,” said Stereo King President John Coleman.

Many suppliers said they are closely watching the economy this year.

Kicker said it was up last year and cautiously optimistic about this year.  But Stillwater VP Business Development Rob Limbaugh is watching the bigger picture. “On average, over the last hundred years, there is a recession every seven years.  It’s been over ten years since our last one began, so you could say we are somewhat overdue. There are some warning signs coming out of the automotive industry, some warning signs coming out of the farming community, and some coming out of the real estate market and commercial retail real estate, in particular.  However, there are other positive indicators such as the stock market that keeps going up.”

Alex Camara
Alex Camara of AudioControl

AudioControl said it was up by double digits in 2019. For 2020, CEO Alex Camara also agreed the election could have an impact on the economy, either a positive or negative one.  “Dealers are looking for new products.  Anyone who is standing still will be left behind…”


Chris Cook
Chris Cook (left) of MEA

John Ivey, CEO Mitek, maker of MTX said, “I’m really bullish about the car audio market and very excited about it.  2019 was a great year for us.  In 2020, I’m still concerned about the political ramifications of the divided country we live it.  With the elections coming up it could make the markets shaky, if it becomes a very contentious election.  I think it will have a negative effect on our economy…if tariffs were removed it would bolster the economy even more…”

For Chris Cook, President of MEA, the main difference between success and failure last year and this year is diversification.  “Diversify or die,” he said recommending, “any closely aligned category to your business where you can use your same talents and staff is good.” He is aware of many retailers who have doubled their business over the past five years due to diversification.



Photo via Entrepreneur.com


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