Aftermarket Asks Ford For Upgrade Path

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SAE panel aftermarket

Chris Cook of the Mobile Electronics Association (MEA) asked Ford executive Tim Yerdon for clear guidelines on upgrading sound systems in an electric vehicle so that extra weight won’t impact the range of the vehicle.

“We’d like to know what the power requirements are, what we can add in the design specifications that doesn’t effect the range of the vehicle,” Cook said, at a recent SAE webinar that Cook moderated.

He likened it to adding a hot tub in one’s home.  You know that the tub needs so many amps and you know how many amps are in your home and if you need to upgrade the electrical panel to meet the requirements.  The aftermarket, while it makes every effort to put in efficient light weight electronics, would like clear guidelines as to weight and power, he said.

Yerdon responded, “It’s a great idea” and Cook thanked him for his consideration of those guidelines going forward.

Alpine and VOXX executives were also panelists during the webinar as was John Waraniak an SAE Fellow and VP of Vehicle Technology at SEMA.  They were asked about the road map for their companies going forward.  Alpine’s Mike Anderson said, “Alpine is looking at Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric (CASE) vehicles. “We have strategies around each one of those. Autonomous is the more interesting one. If you’re driving an autonomous vehicle, you don’t have to have your hands on the steering wheel any more, and you can do other things…We’re looking at what can we offer consumers in an autonomous vehicle to take advantage of the fact they don’t have to pay attention to driving.  So, we see a real bright future around CASE.”

Mike Anderson, Alpine
Mike Anderson, Alpine

Cook asked a question from the audience. “Do you see a day when all OEMs go from model year updates to versions similar to Tesla and what does this do for the aftermarket.  Will it reach a point where there’s no need for the aftermarket?”

Ford said over the air (OTA) updates are not as easy for a mature automaker as a new automaker with fewer cars in their portfolio. A mature OEM offers many vehicles including smaller ones that might have 20 to 30 ECUs and larger luxury vehicles with 80 to 100 ECUs, many of which you won’t update.  You have trucks with and without ADAS and vehicles with different sized displays and different HMIs. “As you scan across that, all of those are almost different part numbers for the software. So, start doing the math on the complexity of that. It’s mind numbing,” said Yerdon, adding, “But we are going to get there as an industry, to have backwards compatibility, but it depends where you draw that line in the sand…There are massive efforts from OEMs, the supply base, technology partners; it’s a team effort for the mature OEMs. If you are a start up or newer OEM, it’s easier. Your portfolio is not as big or broad….These are billion dollar decisions.”

Cook said he doesn’t envision a day when a speaker will be able to upgraded over the air.

Speaking on future roadmaps Anderson also said, “We have been for the longest time, primarily a head unit company.  With more and more vehicles [with electronics fixed in the dash] our business has shifted dramatically over to our speakers and subwoofers to create the personalized aftermarket experience without changing out the dashboard product.”

Ford spoke of the car makers taking cues from the phone and mobile electronics market.   With phones, there’s a lot of headroom in processing and memory for future proofing the product for a number of years.  “That’s not how the automotive industry works. It’s always unwilling to spend and not wanting to pay for over-engineering. But those days are changing and we’re taking this from the phone industry and consumer devices. It’s getting better but we’ll never be able to afford to put that much in the vehicle for a 10 or 12 year life cycle.  So OEMs will have a certain amount of head room to add, but that’s the opportunity for the aftermarket, the ability to always find ways, no matter how difficult,  to add that value into the after sales,”Yerdon said.

Aron Demers VOXX
Aron Demers, VOXX

Alpine noted at this time of COVID-19, the company is seeing more consumers fixing up their old cars, including do-it-yourselfers.  “We’ve seen over the last 6 to 8 weeks, people investing in their old vehicles,” said Anderson.  He expects the trend to continue for a while, until the economy fully bounces back.

Waraniak of SAE confirmed the same trend.  “At this time of COVID, a lot of people are taking the time to work on their cars and realizing, there’s a market out there to personalize the vehicle. It is OEM quality upgrades that we’re retrofitting to the vehicle…whether it’s CarPlay or Android Auto. That lifestyle innovation is what keeps this great industry moving forward.”

VOXX’s Aron Demers spoke of new trends in ADAS.  “Right now, all the products we sell in the aftermarket are primarily passive products.  We’ve brought up how can we get more insurance companies to back our product and give consumers a reduction on their policy. That comes down to communicating live information when it comes to a crash off a sensor and a modem in the vehicle uploaded to the cloud for real time information to the insurance companies.”

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