We sat down with BOSS Audio Systems CEO and Founder Sam Rabanni to learn how BOSS Audio made it to the top of NPD charts over the last nine months.
The company offers 60 CarPlay models between its brands which include Planet Audio and Sound Storm Labs as well as BOSS Audio. “We’re the king of CarPlay and Android Auto,” said Rabanni.
“Most of our competitors usually carry between 15 and 20 models,” Rabanni said. Forty new models are in the works and most of the CarPlay decks this year will be converted to wireless CarPlay and wireless Android Auto, he added.
In our interview that also included BOSS Chief Operating Officer Steve Garcia and Executive VP Sales & Marketing Navid Farhand, BOSS said it originally heavily invested in both Alexa wireless voice control and CarPlay. “Then we realized that CarPlay and Android Auto, as a segment, that was going to be more accepted. We put Alexa on hold and doubled down on CarPlay and Android Auto and that’s why we managed to be so aggressive in getting the product out,” said Farhand.
BOSS took a no-holds-barred approach to supplying retailers during the pandemic, despite the higher costs. And yes, that did cut into the bottom line. Even so, Rabbani estimates BOSS could have shipped an additional 15 to 20 percent of product if it was able to procure the parts, especially chips, which are still constrained.
“As far as the chip shortage is concerned, nothing is better. It’s just as horrible. There are also shortages in monitors that we use in all our head units, even AM/FM tuners are hard to get. The shortages are not over by any means,” said Rabbani. He expects the chip shortages to last at least another two years.
BOSS claims that the foundation for the company’s aggressive push, that brought it to the top of the NPD charts in AV head units, was lain 5 to 7 years ago, long before the pandemic.
Around the mid-2010s BOSS shifted to a consumer focus from a distributor focus. It began beefing up its social media direct to consumers, it doubled its investment in research & development and doubled the product and engineering staff, in the US and Asia. Rabbani said there were other shifts that occurred even before that, 10 to 15 years ago, as the company grew, from its start in 1987, to attracting larger retail customers and larger online retail accounts (these now include Sonic, Crutchfield, eBay, Amazon and Walmart as well as members of the MESA group and many smaller shops).
Three years ago, the company upped tech support to six days a week, with email support on Sundays. It moved to a no questions asked warranty policy. It now allows advanced replacement of returned merchandise so the customer need not wait for the product.
While BOSS has offered the top selling radio in the aftermarket since last July, according to the NPD Group, Rabbani recognizes that it still carries a reputation among some dealers for lesser quality because of its early products from 20 years ago. “We still have some people who say ‘I don’t want to touch it.’ That’s okay. …That’s not who we are today. There’s a reason why the past 7 years have been those of exceptional growth for us. If they want to try the product, we’re here.” But he said it would be wrong to assume that major retailers would carry a product that was not up to par.
The return rate for BOSS is now under 4 percent and the failure rate is half that, said Rabbani. He notes that a CarPlay or Android Auto car radio must be certified by Apple and Google, requiring a high standard of quality.
Growth at BOSS over the past three years was 37 percent last year, 30 percent in 2020 and 20 percent in 2019 over 2018.
But the picture may be less bright this year due to inflation and the war in Ukraine, leading to hesitancy among consumers, Rabbani said. BOSS expects to see narrow to flat growth this year driven by new placement at retailers.
BOSS currently employs 120 people, 25 of them involved in research and development including seven engineers.