Kenwood VP Sales & Marketing, Mike Roberts offered his views on the pandemic’s effect on the car audio industry in a recent interview with Chris Cook of the Mobile Electronics Association.
First, Roberts believes the robust sales enjoyed by the 12 volt industry will continue through the year, provided there is another federal stimulus package. And he predicts a continued positive effect on sales after this year, but not at the same level.
“The second half of the year, I believe, it will continue to be strong depending on the stimulus package. As long as that happens, it will continue. It does have to do with seasonal trends. Right now people are traveling. They are not flying, so they are taking their car on vacation. So, it’s seasonal. But as we get into the fall, people will still have reduced out of pocket expenses, they are not going to restaurants… to sporting events.”
Regarding next year, he said the boost in awareness of car audio will carry into next year, with the extra sales falling off but not back to previous levels. “The way the business is right now, I don’t think it will continue that way long term, but I do think it will be somewhere in the middle. Look at the headphone business. It wasn’t much of a business until awareness was brought to it by Beats, then everyone wanted a set of headphones. So I think just the awareness will have it end up somewhere in the middle.”
It will take some manufacturers until the end of the year to catch up, said Roberts.
When asked to explain the current shortages, he dated them back to when the pandemic hit China and production shut down at the beginning of the year. “At that time most manufacturers cut production,” he said. The factories in China then had to restructure with the loss of business and many closed. “So even now, today, they are not at full capacity. Most are at 70 to 80 percent capacity. We’ve had products still coming in, but I spend more of my time doing thoughtful allocation to make sure everybody gets some products.”
Parts procurement has a lag time of 3 to 6 months and production takes 2 to 3 months. So, when a supplier places an order, it takes 3 months to arrive.
Roberts noted that Kenwood sources speakers in China but it moved its amplifier manufacturing out of China and its head units are produced elsewhere.
Kenwood is planning to ship in September three 10.1 inch floating screen radios with hi res screens and hi res audio and multiple camera inputs.
“Retailers have an opportunity to amaze their customers right now” as customers who might have otherwise gone to a big box store or shopped online, are coming to specialist shops. “Are they greeted right away. Make sure you get their email and their information and send them an email afterward…” Roberts said. Retailers can also clean the customer’s car. “Did you explain how the radio works, how to set the presets?”
Roberts started his career as a young boy at his father’s shop, Columbia Audio/Video in Chicago. Then at age 16 he worked for his dad’s competitor, Playback. In his 30 year career, he has held management posts at Delphi, SiriusXM, and Mitek. He originally worked for Kenwood back in the 90s only to return in 2018.