We regret to announce the passing of Kaz Yamagami who helped launch Eclipse, a legendary car audio company, where many of today’s aftermarket leaders honed their skills.
Industry veterans including Ray Windsor (Clarion, German Maestro, now retired), Phil Maeda (head of Rydeen Mobile), Vince De Stefano (Vince De Stefano & Assoc., Maxxsonics), Ken Wiseman (Lucas Lighting, Alpine), and Mark Bruno (Rockford) all worked at Eclipse, led by Mr. Yamagami, who was Executive VP for Eclipse parent Fujitsu Ten.
The lessons they gleaned have impacted many of today’s companies where they have held key positions (in addition to those noted above). These include Elettromedia, Phoenix Gold, Audiobahn, PowerBass, and HushMat.
Around 1989, Mr. Yamagami teamed up with Reese Haggott, another car audio legend, to launch Eclipse as a top quality car audio brand that would compete with the likes of Nakamichi. It became a high demand line, carried by the leading car audio dealers in the 1990s, the heyday of car audio. And it was a highly profitable brand as it was sold without the discounts so common in the industry.
Mr. Yamagami was known as a “gracious and a wonderful guy,” said De Stefano, who served as Fujitsu Ten National Sales Director.
“He was an important player in my professional happiness,” said Windsor, who served as Eclipse VP. “He was the guy who was encouraging the Japanese to allow me to do the things I was eventually able to do. He was a good guy. He wasn’t real boastful about it to me, but it was fairly obvious that he was the tunnel digger for me.”
Mr. Yamagami remained in Torrance, CA until 1993, said Windsor. After leaving the US, he went on to become the number three top executive at Fujitsu Ten Ltd, in Japan, Windsor said.
Many of those who were fortunate enough to work for Eclipse at the time, call it one of the highlights of their careers.
De Stephano said it was “The proudest time I spent in 12 volt. I worked with the best company, the best reps,. When I talk to Ray or Ken Wiseman or others, we all recognize that it was a magic, special time. We really did have a unique spot in the market with a unique message.” He continued, “We had the best head units, our product was better than anything else in the market. Second, and most importantly, we went to retailers and told them you need to be a specialty retailer and you do it by selling at an uncompromised price, not at a discount. We could go anywhere in the country and the salesmen knew and could say the Eclipse story. We had a focused message.”
Mr. Yamagami worked and fought for that legacy, while remaining a “nice guy” who was “dedicated to the success of Eclipse,” said De Stefano and Windsor.
Phil Maeda, Founder of Rydeen, said Eclipse was where he learned about product logistics, technical product development, inventory management…”I still use the knowledge I acquired. I saw Mr. Yamagami from time to time when he visited CES in Las Vegas with Mr. Ishida and Ms. Eguchi.” Maeda said the spirit of Eclipse in audiophile quality and innovation has carried over into today’s 12 volt industry “thanks to Mr. Yamagami and everyone who contributed. In honor of the ‘high preamp voltage and low impedance output’….Eclipse was one of the best car audio brands ever created.”
Photo courtesy of Ray Windsor. Caption:
Kaz Yamagami (center) flanked by Ray Windsor (left) and Berhardt Schwartz (VP Fujitsu Ten Europe).