Shortage Update on Head Units

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Two head unit suppliers say the car audio industry has lost about a full calendar quarter’s worth of car radio sales due to back orders and it will likely not be able to make up those sales. A handful of leading industry members confirmed the estimate.

In addition, even more business has been lost in sales to big box and large online outlets. Amazon takes orders once a week and if you can’t fill it, Amazon cancels the order.  There’s no such thing as a back order with Amazon. Walmart accepts partial orders, but doesn’t allow back orders.   One head unit supplier said it has lost a quarter’s worth of business just to Walmart on top of losses to specialists. Another said it could only fill 60 percent of orders to Walmart at times since the pandemic.

Part of the head unit problem is that air freight costs are still 3 times what they were prior to the pandemic.  Sony has taken the unusual step of sharing the cost of air freight with some of its distributors.

Another head unit supplier said it has spend $200K in air freight this year.

Car audio head unit sales remain strong as the category continues to benefit from people staying closer to home and vacationing by car rather than by airplane.  A third-tier head unit maker said since December it increased its head unit sales from $160K/month to $460K/month as of last month.

Boss Audio said, “If we had the product, we could double what we’re selling now.  We’re getting 4 to 5 containers a day.  We have 70 containers on the water.”  Boss has posted record sales for the past four months and is well ahead already for September compared to last September.


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