Page 1

June 2015


elettromedia: Sonic Purity, Selling at SRP

Presenting the Top 50! Here’s the List of our Industry’s Best for 2015 – page 30

Are You Committed Online? – page 8

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2  Mobile Electronics  April/May 2015

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Volume 32// Issue 4

Ad Index ®

12 FEATURES 12 // News and Trends: NY Auto Show

Each auto show throughout the year brings with it its own unique focus. The NY Auto Show did just that by giving both tech geeks and auto junkies something to look forward to, showcasing the latest trends in the connected car and autonomous car categories.

Accele Electronics.......................................... p. 2, 3 Alpine Electronics................................................ p. 5 AudioControl ...................................................... p. 33 ADS/idatalink maestro ................................ p. 59 DD Audio ................................................................. p. 7 Directed ................................................................ p. 60 Illusion Audio ..................................................... p. 37 InstallerNet .......................................................... p. 51 Memphis Car Audio ........................................ p. 39 Metra ...................................................................... p. 32 Mobile Electronics Group .............. p. 17, 23, 53 Scosche ................................................................... p. 9 SiriusXM ............................................................... p. 39 Team TSI ............................................................... p. 37 VOXX International ........................................... p. 11

30 // Top 50 Retailers of 2015

They say to be the man, you gotta beat the man. This year, a new crop of retailers has that opportunity by becoming Retailer of the Year. But first, they’ve got to crack the Top 12. Find out who made the cut with the Top 50 Retailers and Installers of 2015.

34 // Protecting Your Brand: Reputation Management With the power of social media, people are voicing their opinions of businesses in record numbers. Moreover, it has lasting effects on those businesses. Find out how to protect your brand in this month’s business feature.

40 // Real World Retail: Handcrafted Car Audio Jon Kowanetz and his team have won over their clients with a mix of sincerity and hard work. This high-end car audio shop has grown its brand with product diversification and becoming one with the community.


48 // Behind the Scenes: elettromedia Earning the trust of a retailer is arguably the most valuable thing a manufacturer can do to increase brand awareness. That’s exactly what elettromedia has done with it’s various brands by providing quality customer service and impeccable products.

On the Cover

During the interview with Jon Kowanetz, which took place at his shop, Handcrafted Car Audio in Chandler, Ariz., he emphasized the importance of creating relationships with his clients, with sincerity a particularly important attribute. Ironically enough, a long-time client of the shop interrupted the interview to chat with Kowanetz about a recent install on his motorcycle. The chat showed in the flesh how the shop could back up its word. It just goes to show the importance of a voice recorder. COVER DESIGN: ROBIN LEBEL

4  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

ARTICLES 18 Retail News/Who’s Who 28 External Effects 54 Installs

DEPARTMENTS 6 Feedback 8 Editor’s Forum 10 Stats 24 On The Market 32 Helpful Stuff 58 Guest Editorial


The 9-inch screen is 89% larger than the factory radio and 55% larger than a standard aftermarket screen.

View alerts like tire pressure and door status, plus keep your favorite factory features like steering wheel controls and factory amplifier controls.

Your Jeep Wrangler deserves the ultimate dash upgrade. The X009-WRA Restyle Dash System has a large 9-inch screen that is the hub for your entertainment and information needs. Use it with separate front and rear view cameras to reduce blind spots and maneuver around off-road obstacles. Let your adventures start with Alpine.

The X009-WRA is compatible with front and rear view cameras (sold separately), to help eliminate blind spots around your Wrangler.

Shown here, X009-WRA for: 2011-UP Jeep Wrangler*

The X009 and custom dash kits are also available for:

Select Ford F-150* trucks, Select GM* trucks and SUVs, Ram* trucks and Toyota Tundra*

* Jeep and Wrangler are registered trademarks of FCA US LLC. Other vehicle makes and models are those of their respective owners. Š 2015 Alpine Electronics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 feedback

Here’s What I Do ... Take the labor dollars on stuff not bought from you, and take time to educate your customer. “We recently went through all our kits and did a stock exchange for kits we’ve had for years. Not only did it free up wall space but it allowed us to get the kits in order and reduce inventory.” Ric Moore, Dr. Dashboard, Evansville, Ind. “I’ve recently seen shops providing basic tools and a small tool cart and vacuum for each employee/work area. I’ve done this for years and it works very well. Each employee is responsible for the tools supplied. If they go missing, they replace them. This saves time looking for tools and borrowing other employees’ tools.” Chris Corwith, CC Electronic Installations, Southampton, N.Y. “Be descriptive to the customer on the items needed for their vehicle.” Morris M. Carmichael, All-Star Accessories, Midfield, Ala. “We double-check all installs before the customer picks up the vehicle. This makes for a happier customer with more recommendations.” Warren Leichter, BC Electronics, Levittown, Pa. “You must be open to all customers even if they bring in their own equipment. It is a great opportunity to up-sell and earn a new loyal customer.” Bader Hijaz, Soundz Good Stereo, Oxnard, Calif. “We use flat installation rates on purchases from us and hourly on those not purchased from us.” Lee Waun, Premium Sound, Inc., Alpena, Mich. “We charge for all labor performed but we also build value into the installation such as building speaker panels out of Sintra plastic for door speakers, foam tape to couple the speaker to the door as well as to

6  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

the door panel, a small amount of sound dampening material for each speaker, and more. This goes above and beyond what most other shops include. Once you explain how this benefits the customer, they have no problem paying our labor rates. It’s all about building value into what we do versus what they get at our competitors.” Gary Stackpole, Benchmark Soundworks, Alpharetta, Ga. “It’s still pretty tough at times on store traffic and closing rate. We recently took our eyes off the digital media efforts we had been making and our Google numbers dropped like a rock. It’s difficult in small to mid-size stores to keep all the balls in the air at the same time, but you have to make sure you do it.” Steve Cramer, Custom Car Stereo, Charleston, S.C. “I have had a few customers say another shop did not or could not explain product to them. Or they were told the part number and to Google it. I pride myself in product knowledge and try to explain features to customers on the product.” Brett Hall, Mobile Sound Solutions, Fort Wayne, Ind. “We have to learn that installing products purchased elsewhere is commonplace now, so just do it and point out the weaknesses of any brands/products and just make customers aware of why your shop uses what they do and why.” Jim Sullivan, Audiocarve, Newport, Vt. “Our great reviews on Google and Yelp help us tremendously. Our great customers bypass other shops due to our service and the products we carry.” Rommel Miranda, Car Audio, Radio & Security, Charleston, S.C.

ADVERTISING SALES Kerry Moyer 703.598.6759 • ®

EDITORIAL Solomon Daniels 213.291.1528 • Ted Goslin 800.949.6372 ext. 466 • Creative Layout and Design: Robin LeBel Contributing Editors: Jamie Sorcher, Ruth E. Thaler-Carter and Rosa Sophia.

Published by


Chris Cook, President 978.867.6759 • Kerry Moyer, VP Strategic Partnerships 703.598.6759 • Solomon Daniels, Dir. Media and Communications 213.291.1528 • Richard Basler, Dir. Technology Solutions 978.645.6449 • Karin Drake, Events Manager 978.645.6478 • Robin Lebel, Creative Director 978.645.6456 •

Mobile Electronics (USPS 957-170) (ISSN#1523-763X) is published monthly by Mobile Electronics Retailers Association, Inc. 85 Flagship Drive, Suite F, North Andover, MA 01845. Periodicals postage paid at Lawrence, MA 01842-8887 and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Mobile Electronics PO Box 92587, Long Beach, CA 90809-2587. Please allow 6-8 weeks for address changes to take effect. Subscription Prices - United States $35 per year, Canada $42 per year, Foreign $75 per year, Single copy price - $5; Buyer’s Guide $25. Please allow 6-8 weeks to receive your first issue.

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 editor’s forum

“Fake It Until You Make It” Time is Over Still doing social media sites and your Web site because it’s expected? You’re better off taking them down. The Web is a scary place for retailers. Unlike our stores, where we control the atmosphere, the customer experience and the quality of our work, the Web puts us in a place where we are at the whim of consumer opinion (justified or not) and the constantly changing preferences of social media. When we first started on the Web with Web sites, we did it for two reasons: 1) because everybody else was doing it and told us we needed to do it, and 2) because we wanted to show that we were up with the times. There was no talk of strategy. We just considered it the necessary ticket to stay in the game. Moreover, for every retailer that was finally able to realize the value of their online presence, making their Web site a repository of customer images and product catalogs in order to bolster in-store business, many more saw their sites as passive billboards. To this day, they have the same thing up that was built in 2003, complete with pixelated GIFs doing jittery dances across the screen. Either that or they let their URLs expire. That's why today you have companies that build, manage and supply content for retailers' web sites as a service. However, even these companies have trouble convincing retailers to pay more than $100 per month. Think about that: one good sale from a Web site referral could net more than $100 in profit, not to mention 10 sales per month! Yet, retailers don’t invest because there is no real expectation of performance. Now add social media to the mix. Most of our retailers faced it the same way they faced Web sites: they got involved for the same two reasons. Either you’ve got stores making posts every now and then, if ever, or the one junior installer or salesperson that’s good at social media is given the posting task with no direction, as long as the owner doesn’t have to worry about it. We need to change our way of thinking about the Web. It’s no longer okay to take the attitude that “it doesn’t have to make a positive impact as long as it’s not a negative impact.” We can’t just do it because everybody else is doing it anymore. The landscape is too competitive. Every marketing effort we make has to have a goal behind it. If it’s not helping you, it’s hurting you, because your competitors are doing a better job. I daresay that, if you are not going to be serious about your online presence, and figure it in as a real marketing vehicle and possibly

8  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

even a profit center, you should take down your site and Facebook page and just list your business with the search engines. From a marketing perspective, you’d be better off. The good news is, there are several retailers who have been able to have their Web sites and social media presence make a difference in sales, which tells us that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more CAN be leveraged to build in-store profit. However, I’m not here to make headlines and tell you it only requires 30 minutes per week. I’m here to tell you it takes focus and real work. Like I told the guys at Mobile Solutions’ Master Tech training this June when we were discussing how to be creative within the bounds of profitability (thanks to Bryan for having me), if doing this business well was easy, everybody would be doing it. So where do you start? By putting online planning into the same marketing plans you make for your brick-and-mortar activities. Define a goal for each online presence that works within your business structure. Don’t make the mistake of looking at social media performance in a vacuum, without understanding how that performance translates into increased traffic, and sales. Likes, shares, mentions and retweets will look good on your stats page, but won’t move the sales needle by themselves. For instance, you may decide that Twitter is where customers can go to ask questions about your work, and Facebook keeps viewers up-to-date with the latest projects. Instagram can mirror Facebook with images targeted at the teenage demographic. And all can be used to distribute a series of posts that you plan out leading up to a major sale or other event. When you create a purpose for your online presence, it gives you the incentive to invest in it because you have defined the ability to measure the performance in terms of your business benefit. Social media is about connecting, not selling, and taking this approach of providing predicable, consistent interaction increases your odds of getting customers in the door when they are ready to buy. The Web is not a separate, unknown marketplace; it’s an extension of your store. So think of it as the lobby outside your showroom. Just like you do when you compete against the big boxes, show your service and expertise to win them over. 

 stats

Labor Rates & Add-ons

Restrictions placed on product not purchased in store None - same as if purchased in our store – 25 % WE ADD A SURCHARGE – 63% We minimize or eliminate our installation warranty – 43% Product must be brand new – 16% Product must be a brand we sell – 0% Customer must have receipt – 2% We won’t install anything not purchased in our store – 2% Addressed case by case, no set policy – 16%

Rates charged for standard wire and connectors We charge up to $10 - 16% We charge $11 or more - 4%

Add-on rates for kits and harnesses Nothing- included in labor price - 6% $10-$20 – 10% $21-$30 – 22% $31-$40 – 34% More than $40 – 16% Varies based on vehicle – 12%

We build it into the labor price - 52%

Hourly labor rate Up to $50 – 14% $51-$75 – 36% $76-$100 – 40% More than $100 – 10%

10  Mobile Electronics  June 2015







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 news & trends

Aston Martin’s track-only Vulcan supercar — only 24 will be produced worldwide — drew crowds at the New York auto show.

Wheel Deal

The New York International Auto Show reveals the core of new car tech, painting a vivid picture for years to come. WORDS BY JAMIE SORCHER


very spring the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center opens its doors for the New York International Auto Show. This year’s event featured 60 new vehicle

12  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

debuts—the largest-ever lineup in the event’s 115-year history. With the U.S. auto industry on track to sell more than 17 million new cars and trucks this year, and as the product

development cycles continue to shrink, auto shows like this one are gaining in importance. Along with the splashy reveals and sleek concept projects, the show is increasingly becoming about technology and safety systems that automakers, both here and abroad, are highlighting. Indeed, more vehicles these days are touting 4G LTE, touchscreens and 360-degree cameras. Car innovations are largely being driven by consumers who are used to their touchscreen gadgets and want that

same experience and convenience in their dashboard. According to research from IHS, Inc., users want to be able to control navigation, temperature, energy efficiency and entertainment all through touchscreens. Another key trend at the show was the increasing amount of safety technology as evidenced by driver-assist features like night vision, automatic braking and pedestrian-collision warning systems. Additionally, there was an emphasis on green efficiency technology, with automakers touting features to improve fuel

economy. For instance, Mazda’s CX-3 features i-stop technology which automatically turns off the engine to save fuel (at a stoplight, for instance) and restarts almost instantly. The electric vehicle was well represented with a number of options including the ultra-urban Smart ForTwo, engineered by Mercedes-Benz, which will be available in both a gas- and an electric-powered version later this year. Driving range is estimated at 60 miles to the charge. What’s more, even though the car is compact, it’s got plenty of techy

touches. It’s equipped with standard Bluetooth technology for hands-free phone calls and audio streaming, and it’s loaded with JBL’s eight-speaker sound system, which includes a removable subwoofer for extra storage space. Not to be overlooked is the increasing role of Apple and Google in the automotive space; something that gains in presence every year. The result is the connected car is here to stay and its impact, according to the BMW Group, could be far greater than the shift to electric and hybrid cars. For   13

 news & trends

The Honda Civic concept glowed in neon green.

both automakers and the aftermarket, the connected car presents a whole new landscape—and with it both opportunities and challenges.

Bright Ideas In concept cars, color was a huge factor along with aggressive styling. There were more sculpted faces and unique grilles, headlights and vents. Bright colors—lime green, lemon yellow, neon orange and cobalt blue—populated the floor. One of the most highly praised introductions related to both design and technology was Ford’s Lincoln Continental Concept. The iconic full-size sedan went out of production in 2002, but is now back with its E-Latch doors that open with the touch of a button and a smart-glass sunroof that darkens or lightens just as easily. Technology-wise, the car senses a driver’s approach, lights up inside and out for a greeting, and features Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Enhanced Park Assist and a 360-degree camera to help with parking. LED-powered headlights bump up visibility while reducing glare for approaching drivers. Inside, rear-seat

14  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

Kia Soul’ster Concept Car - this open-air vehicle has an industrial look, prominent roll bar, and custom blue-accented headlights.

passengers have the convenience of a tablet-supporting lap tray that is accessed from the through-center console. Chevrolet recently confirmed production of its Bolt EV concept, an all-electric vehicle, designed to offer more than 200 miles of range starting around $30,000. A cool function allows drivers to select an operating mode related to a specific driving style, such as weekend drives. The interior, designed to feel like a sanctuary, offers a full-length glass roof and wraparound rear window allowing in natural light to create an open, airy environment. Inside, there is the carmaker’s signature dual-cockpit layout along with a central touch screen so the driver can easily access a variety of electronic readouts with a tap or two on the 10-inch diagonal screen. And talk about a smart car: Incorporated here is automatic park-andretrieval technology (which might not be available in all areas) enabling owners to exit the car, direct the Bolt EV where to park while they dine or run errands, and then beckon it to their location when they’re ready.

Millennials, a group representing the second-largest population of car buyers, were top-of-mind when Hyundai’s Santa Cruz crossover truck concept was engineered. The vehicle features a cool tailgate extension—for hauling home a surfboard, transporting a mountain bike, or just picking up some groceries— so the bed length can be expanded at any time. Honda didn’t disappoint with the rollout of its sportiest Civic Coupe concept designed to date, although there weren’t a whole lot of specs available. The show-stealing, next-gen Civic—with its 20-inch wheels— features Honda LaneWatch, Forward Collision Warning, Multi-Angle Rearview Camera and Adaptive Cruise Control. As far as new introductions, General Motors redid its Chevy Malibu with a nod to safety that extends to the younger set of folks behind the wheel with its “teen driver” mode. If the front seat occupants don’t buckle in, then there’s no playing the radio (audio is muted), and you can’t pair up your smartphone to play your Spotify or Pandora playlist. The car keeps track of how often the brakes are triggered so parents know if kids are pushing the car’s

limits, or speeding and braking excessively. GM changed things up at Cadillac making it a standalone division and moving its headquarters from Detroit to Soho, a New York City neighborhood. The image makeover for the company also extends to the much-hyped Cadillac CT6—which will go up against the Mercedes S-Class and the BMW 7 Series— offering high-end features like premium leathers, exotic woods and even massage

The Porsche Boxter Spyder, with a top speed of 180 mph, hits the U.S. market in October. functions for the seats. For tech, there’s no shortage. The infotainment package includes 10-inch screens mounted in the front seatbacks, quad-zone climate control and the world’s first car sporting the Bose Panaray sound system with a minimum of 34 speakers. The Cadillac CUE interface has been updated: the 10.2inch display features a more powerful processor and touchpad on the console that can be used as an alternative to the touchscreen. For driver assist features, the rear view mirror switches between a traditional glass mirror and a camera-based display mounted outside the car. It is designed to make backing up and changing lanes easier and safer.

Aftermarket Effects

Companies will need a strategic vision to react.” –Keith Lehmann

According to Keith Lehmann, managing director of the Connected Car Council, the road ahead for the aftermarket mobile electronics industry presents new markets and new opportunities as the connected car evolves. “Connectivity is at the forefront right now and consumers are demanding it in the car,” Lehmann said. “Automakers have keyed in on that from what they’re doing with 4G LTE to vehicle-to-vehicle communications—and it will have a profound impact on the aftermarket. It has raised consumer expectations.” Every company will have to determine what is the right strategy for them, Lehmann said, noting that some brands will inevitably go away. “Companies will need a strategic vision to react,” he said.

Alpine Electronics, a car audio manufacturer in Torrance, Calif., has developed its own strategy. “We’re focusing on trucks and SUVs, and where the gaps are,” said Steve Brown, Restyle product market manager. “The automakers offer really good technology, but it doesn’t always translate all the way down the line-up.” Brown noted Ford’s F-150 truck features top technology, but the mid-model is where they pull out some tech features. “This is where we, as an aftermarket company, have an opportunity,” he said. “We also see that the architecture of the dashboard is changing. There is a shift away from the standard DIN and double-DIN which means we will have to be more vehicle-specific with our aftermarket products.” Kenwood also sees opportunities to reach the aftermarket customer. “OEM technology and integration does impact the aftermarket business,” said Rick Noetzli, Kenwood’s general manager of product development and R&D. “It is in the areas of sound performance, smartphone interface and navigation where the OEMs continue to struggle, as often such features are not found on every vehicle due to cost. The OEMs in most cases also do not offer new technology for a used car and are focused on selling a new car instead. The majority of our customers are driving used vehicles and have chosen more advanced entertainment / navigation / smartphone integration than their vehicle was originally equipped with. This will be a continuing trend for years to come, and with the right products and integration or replacement strategy, the aftermarket will remain relevant to our dealers and customers.” As Lehmann pointed out, auto companies have traditionally viewed their in-car electronics systems as a branding statement. Factory vehicle infotainment system engineers, he said, have historically pursued non-standardized, brand-specific platform design. This practice is ending, Lehmann explained, as car companies realize they cannot match their five-year product cycle with connected devices brought into their vehicles that change every 12 months, if not quicker.   15

 news & trends

Chevrolet’s Spark features the all-new MyLink radio with its capacitive-touch color display and icons, just like those on a smartphone. And, just like smartphones, the display allows a user to swipe and pinching for quick, easy operation.

“The industry is changing faster than manufacturers and retailers realize.” – Steve Brown

16  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

Tech companies, such as Google and Apple, will be joined by others in delivering factory infotainment platforms. This is a positive for the aftermarket, noted Lehmann, for two reasons. “Aftermarket connectivity with these systems becomes more possible as open-source developers create forward-compatible apps with system access points that allow for command and control of source devices and connected peripherals brought into the vehicle,” he said. “As more factory systems offer app-controlled functionality, there are more opportunities for aftermarket addons, connected or otherwise.” Secondly, Lehmann said, these solutions will give novice consumers familiarity of operation while giving advanced users more control and the scalability of features and operation that they have come to expect. “Early generation infotainment systems confused and angered consumers through archaic functionality and poor device compatibility,” explained Lehmann. “Consumers who have a better factory system experience that meets their expectations are more likely to consider aftermarket solutions, should they need or want them.” There is more good news, according to Lehmann. Government regulations will compel automakers to include technologies that are deemed important. Backup cameras are mandated to be featured in most new vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2018. It will soon follow that many existing vehicles will need to be retrofitted with cameras, as state and federal pedestrian safety guidelines require these devices as part of the vehicle registration process.

Future Trends On the horizon, there is vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication that is expected to gain acceptance over the next few years. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) just pledged to announce the V2V mandate and standards by the end of 2015, much sooner than anyone expected. “Connected, automated vehicles that can sense the environment around them and communicate with other vehicles

and with infrastructure have the potential to revolutionize road safety and save thousands of lives,” Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation Secretary, said in a statement. The Transportation Department also will craft a plan to test whether the airwaves used by connected cars can be safely shared with other wireless devices, Foxx said. Automakers praised Foxx’s move to speed the process. “NHTSA is recognizing the rapid pace of innovation occurring in vehicle safety,” John Bozzella, CEO of Global Automakers, said in a statement. The Washington-based trade group represents American Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Nissan, and other foreign automakers. “The faster we move toward deployment of V2V communications, the sooner consumers will receive the benefits of this lifesaving technology.” While a mandate is not likely to take effect for years, the government wants to move quickly on this because it is seen by many in the industry as a way to improve road safety. Warning drivers that they don’t have enough time to make a left turn, or warning them to stop when another driver is about to run a red light, could prevent nearly 600,000 crashes and save more than 1,000 lives annually, NHTSA has said. “In an attempt to diversify their business from the declining ‘core’ mobile electronics products, companies are looking to driver assist products to bolster their revenue,” said Lehmann. “Market adoption is still not here on a large scale but there is a strong future for these products due to the wider advertisement of factory driver assist and safety systems.” “The industry is changing faster than manufacturers and retailers realize,” said Alpine’s Brown. “We do a lot of OEM business so we have insight into what is coming down the pike. There are a lot of innovations with safety, but those are happening in higher-priced cars. Right there it creates an opportunity for the aftermarket. The safety market is exploding, and the automakers are doing a great job of talking about this which ultimately helps everyone.”    17

 retail news

Optional Bliss

How Soundz Good Stereo increased their profits by offering stellar financing options WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA


ader Hijaz, owner of Soundz Good Stereo, does what he can to make customers happy when they come into his stores. Soundz Good has three locations, and each location offers multiple services so customers can have everything taken care of in one place. With 24 employees between stores, and services such as car audio, wheels and tires, accessories, window tinting and other vehicle upgrades, Hijaz has found a way to increase his profits and keep his customers coming back for more. How? By offering multiple financing options. Soundz Good Stereo is “your one stop shop,” according to the business’s web site, and offers numerous products such as multimedia receivers, drop-down screens, headrest systems, GPS, amplifiers, speakers and more. “We invested in

18  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

tire machines in our stores, and we are always offering extra services, upgrades. We are always looking for new things out there,” Hijaz said. However, not everyone can afford more expensive items for their vehicles, no matter how much they might want them. That’s where financing comes in. “We used to do financing before the crash of ’08, but then credit companies got really tough on approvals, so business dropped and we relied on cash and credit cards,” Hijaz said. The answer was no-credit-check financing, and setting up multiple companies that could help customers. Using this approach, “we increase our ticket sales, and are able to offer customers multiple items for their car. We have about eight companies who offer financing.” Hijaz went on to explain that even if the customer has cash or a credit card on hand, they are still offered

financing, giving customers the option to purchase products they might not have otherwise been able to afford. “We have finance companies for customers who have good credit. For those who have no credit, we have no-credit-check financing. For those who have really bad credit, we have alternative financing,” Hijaz said. “We have something for everyone, almost. About 80 percent of our customers are approved for financing.” When the customer comes into the store, employees do their best to make them feel comfortable. After looking at the customer’s vehicle and analyzing it, they head back inside. “On the way back in, we ask how much they plan on paying, and explain financing,” Hijaz said of the process. “Even if they have cash or credit, we give 90 days no interest, up to a year-and-a-half no interest. Basically, we


Who’s Who Ric Moore Dr. Dashboard Evansville, Ind. Years of Industry experience: 27 Hobbies: Family, golf, Colts season ticket holder Really good at: Keeping things organized

Soundz Good Stereo attracts many lower-income customers that normally wouldn’t be buyers by offering reasonable financing for its products and services. get someone who might spend $400, and now they are spending $2,000.” Sales are increased just by offering these financing options. Cash customers still come to Soundz Good, but there are less of them, and the business is seeing an increase in customers who purchase more expensive gear because they have been approved for financing. Hijaz said that after being approved, they can be offered an increase so that money is still available to the customer. “Initially, when we’re outside, the customer explains the ideal system they want, and their limited budget,” he explained. Now we have the money on the table, we have the option of doing the financing.” Thanks to the stellar financing options offered by Soundz Good Stereo, the business has reached record numbers. Customers are able to get what they want, and be content with a payment plan they can afford. The goal is to have as many happy customers as possible. For 12-volt stores interested in offering financing options to their customers, Hijaz noted, “Everything is pretty much automated.” There are a few essentials, of course. “You have to have computers in the front. We have a minimum of four computers in front, in each location, because of the services we offer.” Hijaz also recommended a good printer and scanner for transactions. “Make it easy for the salespeople. Make it part of the sales pitch before you start showing the customers the different items they can purchase,” Hijaz said. “Before you get really deep into the conversation with the customer, get them approved.” This way, the salesperson can be aware of how much the customer can afford to spend. The most important thing is to ensure the customer understands how the financing program works. The results of instituting such a program are very positive indeed. “We had a minimum of a 30-percent increase in one month in sales,” Hijaz said. “Most people I talk to in this industry don’t offer financing.” Perhaps the process seems intimidating to some. “[You need] an understanding of how these financing companies work,” he explained. “At first it’s not easy but once you learn it, it’s easy.” 

Tom Fletcher DFM Car Stereo Ukiah, Calif. Years of Industry experience: 30 Hobbies: Fire fighting Really good at: Fire fighting

Bader Hijaz Soundz Good Stereo Oxnard, Calif. Years of Industry experience: 12 Hobbies: Spending time with my kids when I’m off Really good at: Marketing

Lee Waun Premium Sound Inc. Alpena, Mich. Years of Industry experience: 25 Hobbies: Shooting Really good at: Installing

Gary Stackpole Benchmark Soundworks Alpharetta, Ga. Years of industry experience: 39 Hobbies: Golf, scuba diving, marine aquarium hobbiest Really good at: Working with people   19

 retail news

for Barry Electronics has completed its seventh annual video game tournament, and the results only get better and better. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

In early May of 2015, Barry Electronics held its annual charity video game tournament. This year, donations went to the Lima Fire Department’s Safety City project, which helps teach safety to children. In the past, they have also donated to Dayton Veterans Hospital, and a food pantry. The store and its hard-working staff of eight care deeply for their community, making the business much more than simply a storefront that sells 12-volt products. Some of Barry’s former staff also came to volunteer at the event. Everything began with the family business. “I first caught the bug for 12-volt products in 1989,” said Scott Barry, who has run Barry Electronics with his brother, Brian, ever since their father, David, retired. “My family at that time had a business called Barry Electric/ Bluffton Aire, and we built a line of air compressors and sandblasting equipment and had a retail location with sales of hand tools and air tools.”

20  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

David Barry’s interest in stereo systems helped fuel the growth of their business. Father and son invested together, and built a display room. From there, the business continued to flourish. Presently, Barry Electronics has 10,000 square feet for 12-volt products, as well as A/V integration, camera systems, home theater “and anything that I can think of to put on a car, as well as Bluffton Aire,” Barry said. Other members of the family are also involved, including Scott Barry’s daughter Brandi, and his sister-in-law Christy, who runs the office. Barry himself is not as much of a gamer. The idea for the tournament came 10 years ago from A/V installer Jason Ross, who enjoyed playing Halo and thought a tournament might be successful. It turned out to be a huge success, so much so that it continues as a regular event. With three home theater rooms, and two other theater displays, Barry Electronics is fully prepared for the fun, family-friendly occasion.

“We networked all the Xboxes so they could all play at the same time on screens ranging from 120-inch, 106-inch, and three 50-inch screens,” Barry said. “We then set up a tent outside with monitors with feeds from each room so that friends, parents and other players could watch. We have since expanded the event to playing multiple games. We installed monitor sound effects and control systems to enhance the experience for the kids. It is pretty cool.” At the most recent event on May 9, attendees played Halo, Donkey Kong, Mario Kart and Sonic the Hedgehog. Attendees used systems such as Sega Genesis, Xbox, Nintendo NES, and even the Wii. The goal has always been to raise funds for charity. “We have raised about $10,000 over the years,” Barry said. While doing the work they love, Barry Electronics contributes to their community in a most admirable way. Everyone wins. While local charities benefit, children have a wonderful

By putting on a video game tournament, Barry Electronics has opened its doors to a younger generation of customers.

In addition to the many trophies and prizes awarded to tournament winners, the shop also had free food and drink, as well as donated swag like shirts and key chains from various companies.

time and the business benefits as well. Media coverage brings families to the storefront; people who might not have visited otherwise. While attending the video game tournament, they are not only exposed to home theater products and designs, but also to car stereo upgrades and other such equipment. Community interaction is of course a huge part of the tournament. “Last event, the mayor was there and gave a small speech and declared it ‘Barry Electronics Day,’ which was neat,” Barry said. “We also network with other businesses for prizes, as well as manufacturers like Kicker, which donated T-shirts and key chains.” Players can take part in the games by donating $10.00. They receive a T-shirt and a raffle ticket. At the end of the tournament, awards are given to the winners. “We make sure everyone leaves with something, whether it be movie ticket, gift card, or a T-shirt. The kids seem to always have a blast, but it’s a lot of work to pull it off. Jeff Smith, my store manager, starts preparing about six months in advance,” Barry explained. The work is hard, but the rewards are numerous. Barry Electronics has found its niche not just through 12-volt—but also by donating to charity, and giving back to the community.    21

 retail news

Shop Rebirth

After being in business for only a year, Brett Hall decided his margins needed a boost so he moved and re-branded his shop to focus on high-end audio. WORDS BY TED GOSLIN

Mobile Sound Solutions moved from a 9,500 square foot space (left) to a 4,500 square foot space to focus on high-end clients. The definition of insanity is to repeat the same process over and over again, expecting different results. Luckily for Brett Hall, owner of Mobile Sound Solutions in Fort Wayne, Ind., he understands that fact. That’s why when he realized his shop wasn’t generating the kind of revenue he’d hoped for, he not only moved his shop to a new location, but rebranded it to focus on high-end clientele. “Last year I leased a building in downtown Fort Wayne and started Mobile Sound Solutions by myself. When I was looking for locations a good friend of mine offered this building with heavy traffic. I soon found out that it’s really not a great location,” said Hall. “I was paying high rent for high visibility and traffic and that’s really not what’s providing me the bulk of my business.” The shop’s new location is located in an industrial area across from an automotive glass company. Hall was sold based on both the location and the drastic drop in rent due to the industrial location. Aside from what he learned from his clients, Hall’s decision to change the

22  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

business model of his company hinged on his friend and partner, Drew Thomas, owner of Polishworks, a high-end automotive detailing company. “I’ve always wanted to do high-end, since I was a kid, but what put it over the top was working with Drew. One day, I was working on a Chevy Lumina and he was polishing a Porsche 911. He saw what I was doing and said, ‘I’m not saying you need to get to my level, but get to my level!’ I looked at the parking lot and saw the kinds of cars he had lined up versus what I had and realized it was time to change,” Hall said. What helped change Hall’s mind were the price points that Thomas was charging, versus his own. For the average detailing job, Thomas charges $350. Once Hall made the switch, he noticed the types of job requests he got were jumped from $400 trunk vibrating jobs to being asked to put a full $2,500 system on a Harley-Davidson. The new location’s size is considerably smaller than the previous building, with it at 4,500 square feet, versus the 9,000

square feet previously. but according to Hall, the change actually turns out to be a blessing in disguise. “This new shop is more usable to us for square footage. The previous shop had a front bay you had to drive through to get to the back shop. There was 1,200 square feet of front shop I wasn’t even occupying,” Hall said. “Being the sole proprietor, I don’t need spots for three to four cars at a time. I just need two spots.” To help with marketing, a previous independent shop in town where Hall used to work dropped out of the car audio side to focus primarily on home audio. Thanks to his history with management there, they send him referrals from anyone looking for car audio work. On top of that, Hall’s Facebook page helps drive traffic to the store, along with a local publication he uses for advertising. “I buy ads in a local publication that goes to 125,000 homes a month with a coupon book. I’ll be hitting them up more now. I also want to reach out to local newspapers,” Hall added. Looking ahead, Hall plans to hit up local dealerships and add an employee to help with volume. Given his short time as an entrepreneur, Hall’s eagerness and drive has taught him a valuable lesson for the future. “When you first start, everybody stands behind you but none will stand next to you. If it’s your ambition and it’s what you’re good at, do it,” he said. “ It’s hard at first. You just gotta take the lumps and work through it.” 

Coming soon for Mobile Electronics




Brandsphere increases customer store loyalty for the brands you sell.

For more information on the BrandSphere app go to:

get offers New Features, Recalls & New Products WatCh Videos How-to, Maintenance, etc.

iOS QR Code

Contact Customer service answer Questions fast! Why store the Big manuals?

Android QR Code   23

 on the market

Amps, Subs, Speakers and More Rockford Fosgate 19-inch “Superwoofer” WWW.ROCKFORDFOSGATE.COM

Notable: Rockford Fosgate’s 19-inch Power Series T3 “Superwoofer” is now available. The 75lb., 6,000 Watt Max (3000 Watt RMS) sub is available in 1-ohm (T3S1-19) and 2-Ohm (T3S2-19) configurations with an MSRP of $2,499.99. Additional specifications and highlights include three-layer glass fiber/ aramid honeycomb/glass fiber cone, aluminum dustcap, injection molded foam surround with VAST, proprietary surround mechanical clamping ring, dual Nomex progressive spiders with integrated lead wires and aluminum diecast frame with integrated heat sink fins and venting.

JL Audio TW1 Subwoofers WWW.JLAUDIO.COM

Notable: JL Audio has announced the availability of 2-ohm versions of the 10TW1 and 12TW1 car audio subwoofers. The TW1 subwoofer drivers offer a combination of shallow mounting depth, minimal frontal clearance and extremely small enclosure requirements, making them a solid choice for tight-space, moderate power applications. With the addition of the TW1-2’s to the family, amplifiers optimized for a 2-ohm impedance can now be used to their full potential, according to JL Audio. MSRP for the subs are $249.99 for the 10TW1-2, 10-inch thin-line subwoofer and $299.99 for 12TW1-2, 12-inch thin-line subwoofer.


Notable: NAV-TV has released the FORD-UNI-CAM, a rear-view camera and additional video input integration solution for all current Ford and Lincoln vehicles equipped with the factory 4-inch full color LCD display. The FORD-UNI-CAM joins the NAV-TV MYFORD-TOUCH CAM and MYFORDTOUCH CAM2 interfaces, giving NAV-TV blanket safety integration coverage of the entire current Ford and Lincoln lineup. No dealership coding is required. The unit is 100 percent plug-and-play and will not affect the vehicle electrical warranty. For convenience, the FORD-UNI-CAM also provides two 12-volt outputs to power the aftermarket cameras. The FORD-UNI-CAM (SKU# NTV-KIT600) is shipping now with an MSRP of $299.

24  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

DD Audio M-Series Monoblock Amplifiers WWW.DDAUDIO.COM

Notable: DD Audio’s new M-Series monoblock amplifiers include two new features: the VM-RMT and Chain-Link Function. These features provide additional system performance feedback, and open up multi-amp installation options. VM-RMT: The new custom tooled remote gain control features a digital voltage meter in addition to the clipping indicator. This allows for real-time visual monitoring of the input voltage directly from remote gain control. When combined with the clipping indicator the user is able to quickly react to changes. The VM-RMT also has improved output attenuation compared to the previous M-RMT.

Chain-Link: With the new Chain-Link feature you can link as many of the same model amplifiers as your application calls for and sync them all to one main preamp and remote gain control. This feature takes all the guesswork out of gain and crossover matching for multi-amp applications. This secondary linking option is in addition to the current strapping feature. In addition to the new features the M-Series lineup will include one completely new model for the power hungry individuals. The popular M4a will receive a power supply revision and become the M5.

Kicker CompQ Subwoofer

Wilson Electronics Pro 70 Plus Indoor Cellular Signal Booster




KICKER’s Q-Class gear, unveiled at International CES, includes the CompQ Subwoofer. The CompQ, a bass driver that retains a traditional round shape unlike the unorthodox square L7 Subwoofer, supplies increased power handling and voice-coil excursion while improving on the cooling properties and overall durability.

Summarizing the Pro 70 Plus Indoor Cellular Signal Booster, Wilson adds the unit is capable of boosting downlink power by as much as 12dB, and it increases dynamic range and overall coverage in overload situations. The Pro 70 Plus Indoor Cellular Signal Booster (SKU number 460127) carries an MSRP of $1,400.

»   25

 on the market

Massive Audio XK6 Speakers

Alpine 9-inch Restyle for Jeep Wrangler WWW.ALPINE.COM


Notable: Notable: The Massive Audio “XK6” speakers are referred by the company as “convertible” because of their ability to transition from component to co-ax. The High-Energy Y40 magnet’s center is threaded to hold either a bullet-shaped phase plug when using the system as a component or a tweeter mount when used as a co-ax. Both mounting designs are fueled by 35mm CCAW voice coils controlled by the precision grade 18 dB Linkwitz-Riley crossovers. Each XK6 diamond polished cast aluminum basket is heavily-powered to lower resonance and houses ultra lightweight woven carbon fiber cones that are surrounded by soft butyl rubber. Their 28mm silk dome tweeters come with mounting hardware for several styles of mounting all with a swivel eye ball movement.   MSRP is set at $349.95.

26  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

Alpine Electronics of America, Inc. has added to its lineup of 9-inch Restyle dash systems with the arrival of the X009WRA for select 2011-up models of the Jeep Wrangler. The X009-WRA is showcased in a custom Jeep Wrangler demo vehicle made by Starwood Motor X009WRA and iDatalink® Maestro Module. The X009-WRA is a multi-function system with audio, video, navigation and Bluetooth® wireless technology, all controlled through a distinctive 9-inch WVGA touch screen. The X009-WRA is compatible with the 2011-up Jeep Wrangler and comes with a dash kit and

back-lit hard keys that match the Wrangler’s factory dash for an integrated look and fit. The demo vehicle upgrades include a 4.5inch Rubicon Express Extreme Duty long arm suspension system, Bilstein shocks and a Currie anti-rock sway bar. Exterior additions include Road Armor stealth bumpers for the front and rear (with tire carrier), Smittybilt steel fender flares, RSE Rock Slider power side armor and steps, a Lifted off-road heat reduction hood and an AEV JK roof rack. The X009-WRA is available now for $3,500 SRI.

Notable: Design Engineering, specialists in performance thermal products, now offers a Corvette EGR Pipe Heat Shield for 1985-’91 models. Designed with an innovative sewn-in hook and loop edge, the shield easily wraps around the EGR pipe for a secure fit. Simply trim off any excess material for a quick replacement without removal of the EGR valve or pipe.

Custom Autosound Direct OE Fitment Radio for Mustang, Corvette and Chevy WWW.CUSTOMAUTOSOUND.COM

Notable: Custom Autosound has announced its latest direct OE fitment radio. The radio fits applications for the 64-73 Mustang, 68-76 Corvette and 67-72 GMC/Chevy trucks. Radio features include AM/FM RDS tuner with 25 pre-sets, USB flash drive player, subwoofer line out and direct iPod charge and play, among others. MSRP is $299.

Metra Electronics Install Kit for Hyundai Tuscon WWW.METRAONLINE.COM

Notable: Metra Electronics has released its newest installation kits for Hyundai Tuscon models 2014 and up. The kit features a single-DIN radio provision with pocket, painted in matte black. Applicable wiring harnesses include 70-7304, HYBL04 (amplified models without nav) and HYBL-03 (amplified models with nav). Wiring harnesses are sold separately. Antenna adapter not required.


Notable: Automotive Data Solutions (ADS) has announced the immediate availability of new solutions for Fiat 500, Jeep Cherokee and Chrysler 200 models. The DL-CH9 KLON immobilizer bypass and databus integration solutions are now available for the 2011-2015 Fiat 500, 2014-2015 Fiat 500L and Ram Promaster standard key models. The device is compatible with the ADSALCA and BLADE-AL.  Other products available include the DL-CH10 for Jeep and Chrysler, RS-CH10, DL-CH11 and RS-CH11 for 2014-2015 Jeep Cherokee models.   27

 external effects

Digital Music Changes, IP Addresses and More

Music For The Masses What’s Going On:

The way we listen to our music has changed, but we still enjoy and want it in our lives more than ever. According to Nielsen’s Music 360 2014 study, 93 percent of the U.S. population listens to music spending over 25 hours each week cranking up their favorite tunes. In fact, music beats out TV as Americans say they actively choose listen to music (75 percent) rather than they claim to actively choose to watch TV (73 percent). Whether in the car (25 percent), at work (15 percent) or while doing chores (15 percent), we spend big chunks of our time listening to music.

How It Can Affect You: Music can be a huge motivator to send


consumers into a mobile electronics store. But it’s also important to recognize the diversity and differences among consumers of different ages who can walk through the door. According to data from Spotify, musical tastes peak at age 33. But for how Americans listen, it’s overwhelmingly digital. Americans streamed 164 billion on-demand tracks across audio and video platforms in 2014, up from 106 billion in 2013. But here’s the eye-opener: while last year was a

Wearables Gain With Watches What’s Going On: Smart watches made their timely debut in a wave of hype landing at retail stores several years ago, but the category still hasn’t hit its stride. That might change now that the Apple Watch has shipped. According to the “CrowdFlower Apple Watch Social Data Study,” 55 percent of Apple Watch consumers (and potential consumers) love the new gadget, while 45 percent have tweeted a less-than-positive response. The CrowdFlower ( study, which analyzed more than 30,000 individual tweets about the Apple Watch since it launched last April, further revealed women (64 percent) liked the Apple Watch more than men 53 percent.

How It Can Affect You: As venerable as Apple is and even with a host of other smart watch vendors in the mix, the category still faces a tough climb. The smart watch won’t replace the smartphone, but it could definitely chip away at the tablet category especially as smartphones get larger and more powerful. Even if they do have some extra disposable income or opt for a watch versus tablet, some analysts aren’t sure if consumers would be willing to pay for a device on their wrist that has so many of the same features as the smart phone in their hand. Apple’s smart watch could be a game changer for the industry and finally push this category into the mainstream, making it a truly viable one for mobile electronics retailers.

28  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

monumental year for music streaming, it was also a year that showed a dividing landscape. CDs and cassettes continue to decline while vinyl sales have shown some growth along with live events which continue to gain prevalence and more of consumers’ dollars.

Social Climbers What’s Going On:

The social media wheel continues to spin with Facebook losing favor as Pinterest and Tumblr take the lead as the fastest-growing social networks over the past year. According to a study by GlobalWebIndex (GWI), Facebook had an 8 percent drop in those who think of themselves as active users, but other major sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Google+ are all experiencing steady rises between 7 percent and 13 percent.

How It Can Affect You: Social media, which is still a question mark for many retailers and manufacturers, can be a valid way to build a base of followers and potential customers, but it means building an awareness of which platforms make the most sense for a business. Right now, the smaller platforms—Instagram, for example—are leading the pack. The general trend is that folks are moving away from engaging on one platform and connecting on many in what is being called multi-networking.

Address Mess What’s Going On:

The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), the group that hands out numerical codes, has revealed only 3.4 million Internet Protocol IPv4 addresses are left which won’t be enough. According to the group’s president, the supply could actually dry up by this summer. Hard to believe considering back in 1981, engineers created 4.3 billion Internet Protocol addresses. As the Internet has boomed, though, the stash of addresses is running out faster than


How It Can Affect You: It’s not too early for companies to start thinking about deploying the new version

of IPv6, the version that will replace the 25-year-old IPv4. (The IPv5 protocol is not next in line because it was experimental and never took off.) The IPv6 system can handle addresses up to 340 trillion trillion trillions—yes, it is three trillions in a row; otherwise known as undecillion—so there shouldn’t be any issues with supply. For many, though, the main obstacle to upgrading will be the expense, not a push back on implementing the more advanced technology.

A “Buy” Button for Google What’s Going On: Google might be adding a “buy” button to its search results so users can purchase products easily on mobile devices. The move could be a huge win for Google as it pits the company against top e-commerce giants—Amazon and eBay. The button, however, would only accompany sponsored search results and any product purchased would still come directly from the retailer itself. How It Can Affect You: This change enables Google to turn the company into one that plays a direct role in the purchase cycle. Many retailers said they’re concerned that the move will cut out their interaction with consumers; an important tie will be weakened, reducing retailers into nothing more than order-processors. Google’s push into this arena also spotlights the company’s increased interest in mobile usage. Google wants to keep its mobile traffic at growing levels as e-commerce continues to be the way more and more consumers make purchases.

Hsieh saying that the retailer would be transitioning to a “Holacracy,” a manager-free format where employees are all equal in privileges and work in task-specific circles. Hsieh started experimenting with Holacracy in 2013 and expected the company’s transition to conclude within a year, but as of March 2015, only 85 percent of Zappos employees had begun the process.

How Can It Affect You:

Operation Holacracy What’s Going On: Management styles can make or break a company. Last March, employees at Zappos got a memo from CEO Tony

Management styles can be the key to success for a company, but ultimately, it needs to be a format that helps employees thrive. “Holacracy” eliminates static jobs. Instead, employees have positions that can change and there are no standard job titles. Decisions like hiring or purchasing, usually handled by an individual, are determined by a committee. For now, Zappos is serving as a major management experiment. It cannot hurt a business to refresh and revamp, especially if it is to turn a company into a more successful, progressive one.   29



















































30  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

Presenting the Top 50 Below are the recipients of this year’s Top 50 Retailers and Top 50 Installers Awards. Mobile Electronics magazine staff and industry judges selected the winners based on video submissions. Retailers were scored on their business practices, service policies, knowledge of their business state and plans for growth. Installers were judged on their professionalism, skill, continual growth efforts and integration with their respective stores.



















































 helpful stuff

Sites To See: Groupon WWW.GROUPON.COM

Surely you have heard about this site, but is it right for you? Summer can be a great time to drive extra business and connect with new customers by promoting on Groupon. The service has a simple premise: it hooks up consumers who want a great experience or product at a great value with merchants who are seeking new ways to attract more customers. For businesses, it offers a chance to interact with consumers in a different way. Retailers can provide products or services, design custom deal campaigns, enjoy credit card payment processing capabilities, and use point-of-sale solutions that boost business.

Books: Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers. AUTHOR: NICK OFFERMAN

PRICE: $26.95

Inspiration can come from the most unusual sources. Nick Offerman, the American actor, writer, humorist, carpenter and lovable star of Parks and Recreation as Ron Swanson, is out with his second book, Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers. The book, a set of 21 essays, pays tribute to Americans who have personally inspired him from George Washington to Carol Burnett to Willie Nelson. It is divided into three categories: Idealists, Makers, and Freemasons, the secret society. Above all, Offerman said he hopes to encourage readers to think about “how can we all continue to be more decent to one another.” 

32  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

Services: Xero


Xero is a QuickBooks alternative—an accounting server that offers convenient invoicing features plus much more. Some things are expected—creating customizable, recurring invoices and getting updates when they’re opened—but others make this service stand out from the herd. For example, you can add inventory to an invoice, apply credit notes and get paid quickly through a payment link. Your latest banking, credit card and PayPal transactions are imported and categorized. Additionally, you can get a real-time view of your cash flow as well as schedule payments, pay employees, and create and email purchase orders. Starter plans begin at $9 per month.

Software/Apps: Contractually


If you have a smartphone, then you’ve most likely got an address book. All of those contacts are the lifeline to your business, and personal, life so it’s important to maintain correct information and get the most out of your network. Contactually pulls information from your email accounts, including Gmail and Outlook, social networks, and external business applications like MailChimp and Zapier and creates a master list. All relationships are placed in the contact manager. Buckets, as they’re called, are used to organize relationships into groups with reminders to follow up with them. Each Bucket has its own reminder timer. Contactually lets you know when to follow up. Just visit the Dashboard and respond to the reminders. The app is available for Android and iOS. Cost: Free 30-day trial. Basic plan: $29 per month.   33

 business feature

Protecting Your Brand Building and protecting your reputation online and in the real world is proving to be a true challenge in today’s modern, digital landscape. WORDS BY RUTH E. THALER-CARTER, CONTRIBUTING WRITER


our reputation is worth its weight in gold, and today’s popular online environments make it easier than ever to establish and maintain a reputation for quality products and great service, locally, nationally and even internationally. The flip side is that it’s also easier than ever to destroy a reputation through the same online resources. That’s why mobile electronics retailers need to know how to use modern methods to enhance and build a reputation for quality products and service, and how to protect that reputation if it should ever come under attack. Most mobile electronics retailers focus on delivering great products and services to a local customer base. Many are also learning the value of having an online presence to enhance that local loyalty while driving new customers to their shops from outside their immediate geographic locations. That’s when reputation management becomes even more important. To Mitchell Schaffer, owner of the 1sixty8media group, a team of 12-volt industry experts that provides services to the industry, and of the Mobile Edge

34  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

retail store, in Lehighton, Pa., the key to creating a positive reputation is that “you have to be able to walk the walk and produce the results you want to be known for. You have to live up to your customers’ expectations. With small businesses like ours, we have to live up to the reputation we want to have.” Even on a local basis, “most people will research online first, even if they’ll go to the physical store later,” said social media expert Erin Brenner of Right Touch Editing, Haverhill, Massachusetts. Reputation management comes down to understanding the value of a good name and paying attention to how the outside world sees one’s business. Not doing so creates “the risk of letting a disgruntled consumer tell your story,” according to Schaffer.

Creating the Good Whether the goal is protecting a local reputation or an online one, “the hub is a great and well-maintained website,” Schaffer said. “We feel strongly that retailers need a strong web presence about what they bring to the table with their special events, products and services. Once that’s in place, it’s easy to

do e-mail newsletters, engage in social media to promote your business and repurpose your web content,” all of which will build and protect the reputation of the business. Nowadays, as Brenner noted, “just about everyone expects every retailer to have a website with basic information, maybe even online ordering or shopping,” which makes a current, informative, welldone website essential. She sees sites like Angie’s List and Yelp as good choices for being visible because they function as “robust yellow pages.” Just be aware that such sites make it easy for people to post negative reviews—even people called “trolls” who may never have used your business. Reputation management is not all that hard to handle; the key to success is to develop a constant stream of information, tips and advice, news, customer testimonials and more. Vigilance is also a factor; experts and retailers agree that it’s important to regularly monitor how a shop’s reputation shows up online. Some shops do all of their reputation management or online activity in-house; often, the store owner is carrying that load, while some assign other employees

Mitch Schaffer and his company 1sixty8media help retailers with various services, including website creation and reputation management.

to do social network posts. Others hire outside consultants.

Effective Techniques Thanks to the Internet, there are a lot of ways to protect and manage a reputation. Social media experts and retailers agree that the most effective resources include a website with regularly updated information, as well as YouTube posts and Facebook. Few have found great value in Twitter, and most see LinkedIn as more useful for finding or vetting new employees than for promoting the reputation of a business. Customer surveys can be invaluable in protecting a store’s reputation. “Surveys are absolutely critical to learning more about your business,” said Schaffer. “When implemented properly,

consistently and anonymously, without asking leading questions, they can help you find things out about your business that you might not like but can correct.” While press releases and media relations, special events, charitable donations or support, and a company newsletter (print or electronic) all contribute to a strong marketing program that helps build a local reputation, Brenner also recommends “becoming active in civic life, especially in smaller communities, where the retailer will be more visible. The key is developing an ongoing relationship with the audience you want to reach. It’s not just one touch, like a monthly newsletter, but several. It’s keeping your name in front of your desired audience, but doing it in a way that gives your audience something for nothing, and not

overwhelming them. Participate in city events and parades, adopt a park, become a visible sponsor of civic event or project.” Schaffer agrees that being seen as a good corporate citizen through community or charitable events contributes to a good reputation. His store does an annual event that involves giving away a free remote starter to anyone who brings in a coat for a child. “It generates tons of free publicity and goodwill in the community,” he said. Balance is also important. “Information about the retailer should be mixed with information related to the product or service,” said Brenner. “Information should not be all ‘me, me, me,’ but instead all about the customer” and what the business can do for that customer. Look for ways to couch announcements in those   35

 business feature terms. You aren’t just opening a new location, for instance; you’re making it easier for customers to get to you.

Handling the Bad If a complaint or negative comment arises, retailers and experts agree that it’s vital to respond quickly—to respond, period—but with care.

Some review sites let retailers respond directly to customer feedback, but it’s vital to be professional about it: “Don’t get defensive,” said Brenner. “You can’t please everyone, and you may not have to answer every complaint. Sometimes, people just want to be heard.” How a retailer reacts to a complaint or criticism can be vital in managing

you. Spelling errors take away from your credibility,” he noted.

Retailer Perspectives Doing quality work, and building a good name with area auto dealers can be the making of a retailer’s business reputation, as Ryan Pepsin, owner of SRQ Custom Autosound, Sarasota, Fla., has

Ryan Pepsin, owner of SRQ Custom Autosound, has built his shop’s reputation on doing expeditor work, attracting business through local dealerships. “Every business, everyone, makes mistakes,” Brenner said. “What differentiates a great retailer from a mediocre or poor one is how it makes up for mistakes. Fix not only what went wrong for the customer, but reward them for telling you and do what you can to avoid that mistake again. If it’s poor customer service, give your employees more training. If your customers are kind enough to tell you, return the favor and fix the problem. You’ll win over customers longer term.” Brenner recommends looking at the criticism as objectively as possible to see if it represents something that could be done differently or better. “Look for patterns—do you keep seeing complaints? That’s definitely something to fix.”

36  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

the impact on a reputation. “When you see a bad review, the very first thing you need to do is step away from your keyboard; the last thing you want to do is respond in the moment,” Schaffer said. He suggests showing the complaint to a key employee or spouse to get feedback, thinking about the matter for 24 hours, and then developing “a specific response that stays on point—don’t lecture, don’t write a book; just respond to the complaint.” He also recommends apologizing “even if you know they’re wrong”—that is, apologize that there’s an issue without necessarily saying that the shop did anything wrong. Equally importantly, “before you hit the Send button, have a couple people proof your response for

found. “We do the majority of expeditor work in our area, so the car dealers are always bringing us work, or referring the client to us directly,” he said. “By simply doing a good job on every car, we don’t need to go out after work and chase clients.” SRQ keeps its Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, YouTube and website “as up-to-date as possible,” although doing so “could easily be a full-time job,” Pepsin said. “The blog on our website is not updated as often as I would like, but it brings in client inquiries from all over the country. In the end, word of mouth from our clients still brings in more business than everything else combined.”

“You can’t please everyone, and you may not have to answer every complaint. Sometimes, people just want to be heard.”

Social media expert Erin Brenner of Right Touch Editing, Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Pepsin handles all of the social media and online activity for his business; he tried using another staffer but took the responsibility back because “I’m a stickler for having our posts contain perfect spelling and grammar.” To maintain its reputation for not only quality work but good service, SRQ uses BusinessWorx to send a follow-up survey e-mail to every client and addresses “anything other than a five-star review immediately and professionally.” Pepsin has a straightforward approach to reputation management: “Always respond like a pro,” he says. “Take responsibility; don’t trash talk the customer ever. Give reasons, not excuses, and be

sure to tell everyone how you resolved the issues with the client.” SRQ has had the unpleasant experience of having to apply that philosophy to deal with trolls, he noted: “In the first year of business, we had several fake Google reviews. They were clearly written by someone who had never actually been in our store by how they described things, and their names did not match any of our clients. After several weeks of going through the process, Google did remove them.” At Musicar Northwest, Portland, Ore., reputation management starts with the website. “We have poured work into our website since day one,” said co-owner Ken


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 business feature

Darrel Fettik of Audio Designs emphasizes restraint at his shop when dealing with online complaints.

38  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

Ward. “We also use Facebook, Facebook groups and a network of auto-service companies with whom we have excellent relationships.” Facebook is primarily a way to circulate high-resolution images of the shop’s work. YouTube videos have been popular, but are not locally focused. Ward handles the website and the co-owners share social media activity, with new projects driving most posts. “Facebook now supports scheduled posts, so we plan on using that feature,” Ward said. Ward has found that events tend not to drive new sales; most business is from either repeat clients or referrals—a good indication of a good reputation. Because the shop has fewer tickets than the average shop, and a higher per-ticket average, Musicar Northwest does customer follow-ups by e-mail, rather than surveys.  Musicar Northwest has also had a bad experience with an online review site, but was able to manage it before it could do serious damage to the shop’s reputation. “We had a spurious Yelp complaint from

an employee of another shop, who was trying to impugn one of our employees,” Ward recalled. “We let Yelp know that the review was spurious, and they corrected it in two days.” Direct contact with genuine complainers also can be effective: “We also had a three-star review on Facebook from a consumer who wanted a custom part we have stopped making. I replied to his post and offered to let his complaint stand, but asked if he could take the review down since it seemed to say we were an average install shop—and he did!” Ward acknowledged that he was fortunate in being able to head off reputation-damaging reviews: “I know shop owners who have had terrible luck with bad reviews,” he said. In the eyes of Darren Fettik, owner of Audio Designs & Custom Graphics, Gainesville, Fla., “good quality work and a knowledgeable staff” are the keys to establishing a good reputation as a mobile electronics retailer. His business builds on those elements with a website, which was completely redone recently;

regular articles about “how we do things differently”; a weekly electronic newsletter; “a lot of stuff on Facebook”; images posted to Instagram; and more than 155 videos on YouTube. Visibility at Yelp and a Google Ad Word campaign bolster those efforts. While Fettik takes care of most of the website articles, he has a “website guy” to help and recently hired someone to handle marketing for his business. The shop also enhances its reputation by sending out a survey to anyone who spends more than $100, asking how the service was, how customers heard about the business, whether customers would recommend the shop to friends and whether the business could do anything better. Such surveys can be done automatically with Quickbooks. Fettik is on the same page as colleagues who advise restraint in responding to online complaints or criticisms. If these arise, he said, “keep a positive attitude, find out exactly what the situation involved and resolve it peacefully. Don’t get into a screaming match.” Not only does a low-key, professional response defuse the original complaint, but it helps enhance the shop’s reputation by showing how the business handles such issues because “customers can see how you handle matters online.”






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Reputation is Everything Thanks to the ubiquity of the Internet and the ever-increasing ways to promote and develop a local and online presence, “there’s no reason not to manage your reputation,” Schaffer said. In today’s marketplace, word of mouth may still be the most important factor in establishing and spreading that reputation—retailers just have to remember that word of mouth is no longer only local or person to person. “It’s easy to set up alerts and know when someone posts a new review about you. If you’re a good retailer, most will be pleasant surprises,” Schaffer added. “Occasionally, as a business owner, you will have a negative review, but it’s much better to know about it so you can get to bottom of it, respond and fix any problems.”    39

real world retail

More Than Business With a passion for doing quality work and caring about each customer who walks through the door, Handcrafted Car Audio has left an unforgettable footprint in both its region and the 12-volt industry.


The shop recently moved into a larger location to make room for the growing customer base it has been experiencing.

40  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

» HANDCRAFTED CAR AUDIO FAST FACTS WEBSITE: FEATURED STORE: Handcrafted Car Audio 2775 N. Arizona Ave, Suite 5 Chandler, AZ, 85225 The company operates out of one location, considered a boutique store with 4,100 square feet of space. It can be found in an industrial complex off a main street, considered a state highway. The shop has no walk-by traffic, operating mainly on word-of-mouth referrals and digital advertising. Most of the work done is for high-end clientele, focused on custom audio, security and safety products.

EMPLOYEES: Jon Kowanetz, Owner/Fabricator James Cole, Sales Associate Nik Edmonds, Install Technician Jeremy Jackson, Lead Install Technician   41

real world retail

“I was losing interest in my work despite how much I loved it. I was getting burned out. So I started gathering ideas to get an idea of how my own business would be.” - Jon Kowanetz


nglish writer D.H. Lawrence once said, “Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.” If ever there were a phrase that perfectly summed up a person, it would be this for former Retailer of the Year, Jon Kowanetz, owner of Handcrafted Car Audio in Chandler, Ariz. Since he was 16, Jon Kowanetz has been in love with car audio. His passion drove him from working on mobile audio systems as a hobby, to working in various shops in his home town, including Best Buy and two independent retailers. Once he saw a rift form between his passion for the work and the diminishing interest his last few employers had for car audio, he decided to make a change. “I started to realize that, because of the environments that I was working in, I was losing interest in my work despite how much I loved it. I was getting burned out. So I started gathering ideas to get an idea of how my own business would be,” Kowanetz said. “The real big push for it was that my wife and I knew we were going to have our daughter soon, so I wanted to take the chance before my daughter arrived.”

42  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

Once he’d settled on what he wanted his shop to be both in the business and ideological sense, Kowanetz began working out of his home garage. As business grew, so did the amount of vehicles in front of his house and, soon enough, the city found out about his operation and forced him to move his business into a properly zoned location. “We moved into an actual business location, a warehouse in an industrial complex. It was 1,800 square feet, off the beaten path, very difficult to find but it did well for us,” he said. “We stayed there until the middle of last year. Then we moved to the current location which is a 4,100 square foot place off of Arizona Ave., which is a state highway.” Since the shop’s humble beginnings, Kowanetz has maintained his shop’s focus by executing his original core values: passion for the work and making people’s lives better.

Renewed Focus Today, Handcrafted Car Audio acts as a true service facility, taking time to get to know its clients while providing the best possible work. This model has allowed the shop to reach the

Owner Jon Kowanetz not only runs the dayto-day operations of the business from the management perspective, but also handles the more difficult fabrication work that comes in.


Unwanted Donations

highest heights of the industry, earning it Retailer of the Year in 2013 and Kowanetz himself earning Installer of the Year in 2010. “When we got started, the game plan was to just do what I enjoy doing for myself, make my living with my own rules and put out work that I can be proud of. That’s still at the core of what we do but now we’re much more focused,” Kowanetz said. “Previously, it was done from an idealistic place, whereas now it is much more organized and planned out. We truly believe that our responsibility is to use our expertise to make people’s lives better, safer and more fun. So, we have begun expanding into other related categories to better support the needs of our community.” The staff is made up of four fulltime employees: Kowanetz as owner and custom fabrication designer, Sales

Associate James Cole, Lead Install Technician Jeremy Jackson and Install Technician Nik Edmonds. With its focus being service, Kowanetz considers his store boutique in that it is less about stacking product and more about active product displays and a shop tour, which every customer is offered. Although, not all customers are interested in the tour. “It’s all about sharing your knowledge and passion for what you do with these people and letting them come to the conclusion on their own that you are here to provide a service and not just to sell things. For the type of clientele that we market to, this means everything. However, the people that are not looking for our level of service tend to get a little frustrated,” he said. “For example, most of our interactions with customers start with a phone call or an email

Sometimes giving back isn’t as well-received as a shop hopes. Such was the case during a promotion involving life jackets that the shop put on. In an attempt to run a marketing campaign that also benefitted the community, Kowanetz asked the community to donate older or unused life jackets to the shop. This was also meant to bring in more marine business. Unfortunately, the promotion didn’t go so well. “We promoted through Facebook and email blasts and got some life jackets, but nowhere near the number I was hoping for,” he said. “I was hoping to get more boating clientele but people just weren’t bringing them. I donated the jackets to a place in Mesa that gives to families in need. It was the only place I could find that would take them all from me and be enthusiastic.” Most places, however, passed on taking the jackets. Luckily, the promotion didn’t cost the shop anything, but it was a failure nonetheless.   43

real world retail

» A Great Partner

Handcrafted offers many product lines to its customers, but few have been as great a partner as Compustar by Firstech. For close to four years, the company has been an ideal vendor for the shop, not just by providing a high-quality product that sells well, but the customer service and support to go with it. “We have a really good relationship with their representatives. Dean Humphries is our sales rep for Compustar and he’s really good about calling me when there’s something going on that I need to know. Or I’ll call him with a specific question or request and he’ll get it done,” Kowanetz said. “He’s super easy to work with and his tech support team is probably the best I’ve ever worked with.” Thanks to hot-weather climate in Arizona, remote starts are a hot item for Handcrafted, with clients wanting to start cars in the morning and afternoon before getting in them to make sure the AC is running and cooling the vehicle. The product also lends itself to a unique sales tactic employed by the shop. “One of the biggest reasons we’re so successful in remote starts is the way we sell it and install it,” he said. “We’ll do normal thing, give them a tour, check out their car and all that and then bring them up to a remote start display, a reconfigured Compustar display that is fully functional and shows when it’s armed and not armed, remote started, etc. We heavily leverage how Compustar made their systems modular, which means you pick out the brain you want, you pick out transmitter, and they get paired to each other during installation. If you decide you didn’t like it after a few weeks, you can come in and replace the transmitter and your’e done, the installation remains untouched.”

44  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

asking for an estimate of cost and time. When we explain that we would appreciate the opportunity to meet them, show them around our facility and take a look at the their vehicle before providing an estimate, our target audience responds positively, while those who may just be looking for the lowest price may see it as a waste of time.” The shop’s primary demographic is mostly male, between the ages of 20 to 50. Female customers tend to be in a similar range but slightly older than 50. “They’re typically professionals with busy schedules that understand the value of what we offer and their own time. Every once in a while we will get a customer that has a budget that is lower than we have a solution for. While our goal is to never deny anyone work, we know that we can’t serve everybody and maintain our required level of quality. So, we give them the tour, show them who we are, and then politely let them know that we just don’t have a solution that fits within their budget. They typically either thank us for our honesty, or increase their budget,” he said. “Some come in thinking it’s going to cost $1,500 and after we help them find out what they really want, it ends up costing $2,500. They’re totally fine with the cost, because now they understand the value of it; they just needed somebody to listen to them and show them the value.” The shop’s average ticket was estimated by Marcel Newell of Avidworx about two years ago and said to be around $860. Kowanetz believes it’s gone up since then. To keep customers coming back, the shop has some unique service practices it utilizes. First, all employees wear

uniforms that consist of a custom gray Dickies shirt with the company logo. Audiofrog, one of the shop’s vendor partners, provided a special shirt with its logo and the Handcrafted logo on the back that staff sometimes wear. For customers who leave vehicles overnight, the shop offers a rental car deal with Hertz for $30 a day. Kowanetz has looked into the possibility of a loaner car in-house, but hasn’t had the need for it as of yet considering the shop’s ability to turn over a high volume of work quickly. One thing Kowanetz emphasizes is that he stands behind his work. This is anchored along with the shop’s core ethic—caring for its customers. This concept has earned the shop a place in the community as the go-to shop in the area for custom work. With a reputation so strong, Handcrafted deals primarily in high-end work. One recent build involved a $9,000 sound system install for a client who drove all the way from California with their GMC truck. “This happens fairly regularly,” Kowanetz added.

Selling With Sincerity While Kowanetz considers himself and his staff jacks-of-all-trades, the sales aspect of the company lies primarily in the hands of salesman James Cole. Adhering to the ideals Kowanetz has established, Cole utilizes a friendbased approach, rather than focusing on strong-arming a customer. He uses sincerity and honesty to earn a client’s trust. “I’ve been trained by a lot of different sales trainers. But my problem was I felt I was being trained to trick people sometimes, or get in their heads. I really didn’t like how that felt,” Kowanetz said.

“I decided that I would just be genuine with people and, if I deserved their business, I would get it. If there’s anything I can press to James, it’s just to be honest with the customer, make a real connection with them.” The trust extends to more than just words. Each job is given a lifetime warranty as long as the customer owns the vehicle. Cole earns an hourly rate, with a commission given out based on the percentage of sales growth from the previous year. Revenue growth has consistently been around 20-24 percent annually. “He was the first person I hired with an incentive plan, with the goal of increasing business,” Kowanetz specified. “So I thought it was appropriate to base his commission off of what he added above and beyond the previous years’ period, in hopes he would kind of make it his own business, which he has.”

Preserved Enthusiasm To maintain the high-level of quality to match its top-notch service, the installers need to be more than just hired guns with tools, according to Kowanetz. They need to be passionate about their work. Part of keeping up passion, aside from hiring good employees, is keeping the install staff challenged with difficult and unique project. Not to say that the crew doesn’t see its fair share of basic installs, but without the high-end custom fabrication and complex wiring jobs that come through, the store wouldn’t be the same. “They’re really happy with the work that they’re doing. Not too many guys I know are happy doing basic stuff that isn’t challenging to them. The fact that we do more challenging things keeps them excited about their job,” Kowanetz said. “The most common thing we do is integrated high-end sound systems and fabrication, which keeps their minds and skill set sharp and defined. We also try out new product categories to see what does and doesn’t work, which piques their interest because they’re trying new things and finding better ways, and that’s what being an installer is all about!” One category that’s been building momentum is safety, given the age group that comes to the shop. Statistics

have shown that most older clients are interested in practical equipment over old-school bass-thumping sound-systems. Products that have succeeded for Kowanetz recently include back-up cameras, Mobile Eye systems and blind spot detectors. “It’s still a tough sell but the people who come in for something like that are really happy that you help them take away that fear. It feels good to know that I have built a business where we are satisfied by improving people’s lives,” he added. The shop is well-equipped to handle just about any work that comes through the door with a custom fabrication room that includes specialty equipment for wood, fiberglass, painting and metal work. The main install bay includes air lines, power drop cords individual panel racks and battery chargers for each work station, which hang from the ceiling so cars can remain plugged-in an charged while work is being done to them. Each vehicle is protected with white Tesa exterior tape to prevent scratches and seat covers during installation. A digital check-in system is used via iPad and iPhone that automatically emails a copy to the customer to inform them of any defects found as well as pictures of progress. “We also have little rearview mirror hangers we leave in the car that includes vehicle make and model, along with a note section where the installer can note anything special about the install to the customer or a recommendation for future work based on what was done,” Kowanetz said. “We were doing water bottles in the cup holders for a while. Then we started finding out that people didn’t want that. People would give them back saying ‘you left this in my car.’ So we just started offering them to them before they left, rather than assuming they wanted them.” Installers are paid on an hourly basis and duties are given mostly based on availability, unless a task comes in that requires a specialist. Fabrication design work, for example, is mainly done by Kowanetz himself, while the actual fabrication work is done by Jeremy. Daily meetings are held at 8:30am, just prior to the shop opening at 9, to go over   45

real world retail the work schedule for the day and any possible concerns, so that the day goes smoothly with few interruptions. The shop is cleaned by everyone, with no schedule allotted.

Marketing, The Handcrafted Way Since most retailers know the importance of repeat business, keeping in touch with clients is a no-brainer. But while email has become the standard way to stay in touch, the way email is used can vary based on strategy. “We collect email addresses every time a customer comes in so we can keep in touch with them. I don’t think sending promotions produces results, the idea is to stay top of mind with customers and to let them know different categories we’re in to. It’s mostly an educational thing,” Kowanetz said. “Maybe they didn’t know why they’d want to have a radar detector or type of lighting. It’s a lot more beneficial than promoting a sale. We’re not pushy at all.” The shop’s digital strategy is much the same as its in-shop strategy: provide service, not a forced sales agenda. Social media (the shop uses Facebook on occasion) follows the same approach, focusing on educating customers on what’s available and promoting the latest category, not a particular sale or deal per se.

“The most important thing is for our customers to meet us, like what we do, feel comfortable with us working on their car and see that the value matches their budget,”

The installation bay is set up as an efficient machine, with a detailed check-in/out process and individual charging ports for vehicles. 46  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

“The most important thing is for our customers to meet us, like what we do, feel comfortable with us working on their car and see that the value matches their budget,” he said. “Same thing with the emails. We want them to know that we know our stuff, we’re the professionals, and if they want to buy from us, that’s great. If not, that’s okay too.” Digital ad campaigns are run using Google Adwords and Facebook. Posts on Facebook are selected carefully based on the interest from readers. “If a lot of people are interested in the post we will boost it, but Facebook got wind of that with businesses so they won’t show the number of people reached as much.” The website has been a proven commodity for the shop as well, with most customers who visit the shop remarking on the quality of the site and leaving reviews on Google. To keep with the times a website a redesign is currently in the works with Mitch Schaffer of 1SixtyOne Media. Schaffer will be in charge of updating site content on a monthly basis. Considering the recent challenges the shop has had with its growth, it makes sense for it to outsource certain duties.

» Caught on Tape

“One of the biggest challenges we’re facing right now is controlling our systems and keeping them in place while we grow, being scalable,” Kowanetz said. “The big problem for me with marketing is having the time to sit down and work on it. My goal for the business, and one of the reasons for the new location, has been to grow into a bigger small business with better marketing and business development. We are looking to take market share away from our main competitor, who provides similar work but without the customer service and level of quality we provide.”

Bigger And Better Over the past year, the shop has endured its fair share of challenges. Since moving into a much larger facility, Handcrafted has gained notoriety from its customer base with a surge in work, making it difficult to keep up with demand. On top of that, after last year’s KnowledgeFest in August, two employees left to pursue other jobs in the industry. Despite the loss, the shop was able to keep up with demand, hire two new employees quickly and continue its upward business trend. “It was a big deal for us to have lost

those staff, we all worked very well together. In October and November we hired Nick and Jeremy but in December it was just Jeremy and I for three weeks with Nick on a preplanned vacation,” Kowanetz said. “We had our biggest sales month ever, with only two employees! Being able to bring a new employee up to speed and performance so fast really showed me the strength of the company I had built and the systems I had put in place.” The company’s goal in the coming year is to explore new categories, including safety, truck accessories, and off-road categories. “We’re trying to be less of a car audio shop and expand into other categories,” Kowanetz added. Besting the competition is also on the radar, which, according to Kowanetz is just a matter of time given the edge they currently have based on quality of work. “I would like Handcrafted to be the go-to shop in the area for all things audio, security and safety-related. I want us to be more to the community than just car audio,” he said. “I want everybody that works here to be proud of their chosen career because of what they are able to do for people, and for themselves.” 

During the interview for this story, which took place on location at Handcrafted Car Audio, a customer walked in and unknowingly interrupted the interview. During the exchange, the customer spoke to both Kowanetz and an unidentified installer about a recent build on his motorcycle. “So it’s got the right amount of bass according to what you wanted, then?” the installer confirmed. “Yeah, it’s awesome,” the client confirmed and went on to say, “The guy who built my bike has good customization skills but you could tell the way he put the amp in, it didn’t work. But I talked to him about you guys and he wants to come in and check you out. He has probably three or four bikes, not high-end but consistent audio. I’ll bring him here and we’ll talk. Both bikes need to be at a low rider show on the 14th.” Kowanetz enthusiastically thanked the customer and asked about the low rider show. The client gave him some basic info before saying, “You might want to look into getting a booth, bro. You might get some business out of it.” “I’ll consider it,” Kowanetz said. “I swear we didn’t plan that.” He laughed. “I introduce him as one of my best customers. He loves it. He just wanted to make sure the radio controls worked for his bike.” Enough said.   47

 behind the scenes


s manufacturers go, Elettromedia does their best to appeal to the heart, and the head. But what they really want are your

Amplified Perception Despite a lack of mainstream consumer awareness, elettromedia has fortified its brands with a combination of strong dealer training, good profit margins and undeniable sound quality. WORDS BY BILL BRAUN

48  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

ears. Firmly positioned as “sound quality first,” the Italian manufacturer owns three companies: Audison, Hertz and Connection. While Audison is dedicated to amplification and processors, Hertz offers speakers, subwoofers and amplifiers touting power ratings in excess of 15,000 watts. Elettromedia isn’t alone in its fervent love for sonic purity. Its’ competition certainly makes the same claim. The difference can be largely quantified in a single word: Bit. A simple phone call to any Audison rep, retailer or the company website ( reveals what the company believes to be the next step in sound quality. The challenge is to show the retailers—and by extension the consumer world—the value of a product capable of transmitting a digital signal with nearly triple the information contained in a CD, while simultaneously serving the amp and speaker needs that have existed since the dawn of the industry.

New Values In The New World Advanced Marketing’s Rob Wempe is the vice president for elettromedia, and a three decade veteran of the 12-volt industry. His position has met with meteoric levels of success. Since coming on board in 2011, sales have nearly doubled. Wempe attributes the jump to a solid foundation, personified in a trio of core values: “What the paper says is what you should really get (price-wise). Sure, we sell amps and speakers. So does everybody. What we really sell has to fit in the three core things that we do.” “We sell technology,” Wempe stated. “We’ve got full D/A (Digital Audio) from the radio right back to the amp, and an HD music server. So when we put a price on something, it’s actually worth that, and our dealers can get it. Anyone can price their products so there is great margin, but when the product is sold,

what is the real value?” Elettromedia believes the Bit processors help to bridge that gap. “The second value is profit attainability,” Wempe said. Products fight online pricing, over-distribution, or a lack of the technology that would differentiate it from the competition. Our products can be sold at MSRP since in most cases, our dealers don’t fight those pricing pressures due to over distribution.” The final value is what Wempe termed “vendor predictability.” That means no additional pressure at month’s end for orders. “We (Elettromedia) offer our specials near the middle of the month and you have the whole month to take advantage of it.” To reach consumers nationwide, Elettromedia recently engaged Shopatron to carry most of the Audison and Hertz line, but not to compete directly with the brick and mortar stores. “Our products will be at full MSRP, not at MAP,” Wempe said. “There will be one site in the country, and that’s it. It fits all three of our core values, and allows our dealers to point at the site (many dealers sell at MAP) and show the customer that the only place to buy it [authorized online] is at full MSRP. We looked at some other very reputable online stores, but they were competition to our brick and mortar customers.” There will be one exception to the Shopatron offerings. Because of the specialized skills needed to install and configure the Bit gear, Audison decided not to sell these products online. They simply don’t see it as a DIY project. Ed Webber is the owner of Foss Audio in Washington. With five shops in his company and four years as both a Hertz and an Audison dealer, he’s very familiar with the pros and the cons of online sales. He believes that Shopatron is a preferable option, and has found other brands nearly impossible to compete with online pricing. “It’s better than the alternative. [It seems like] 75 percent of the lines out there are sold at cost.” Elettromedia has also taken steps to police the web, hiring a private firm to anonymously purchase gear from people selling online without permission. “We track every serial number,” Wempe said. “We have zero sympathy for dealers trying to sell our gear online [illegitimately].” To ensure gear is consistently available, Elettromedia has taken steps to refine the predictability of the supply chain as well. “Everything comes from here,” Wempe said, referring to Advanced Marketing’s Irvine, California warehouse. “Before I got here, every container arrived and then immediately went back out again. We put together a business model that makes sure we have the inventory. We’ll look at the 12 month history of a SKU, and unless there’s a spike, we’re prepared for it.” That planning has proved to be vital, given every product is made overseas. “Since products coming from Italy have a 90 day turnaround and products from China have a 60 day turnaround.” Wempe explained. In fact, Elettromedia just opened a brand new factory in September where Hertz and Audison speakers are built.

bit Ten D

Hertz Mille ML 1600

Audison CBT1   49

 behind the scenes

Rob Wempe, vice president of elettromedia

A premium product requires a premium level of performance. That starts with engineering, and continues to be refined even after the gear first hits the shelves. To assist with that process, D’Amore Engineering recently partnered with elettromedia-USA. “On new products, we’ll do some investigative work and try to resolve issues. We talk with Italy directly,” said Juan Rodriguez, co-owner of D’Amore Engineering. “We handle all the aftercare, all the repair in the U.S. market. We [American consumers] tend to push our amps hard, so there are issues in this country that they don’t necessarily see overseas. Issues we find can be identified and amended on the next production run of the product.” The new teamwork stems from a long-

online. That’s huge.”

The Training Imperative Audison hangs their technological hat on several unique products, not the least of which is the Audison Bit series of processors and the Prima series of OEM integration products. The goal behind that gear is to expose the advantages of high-resolution audio. Revealing the potential of better sound to the consumer and by extension, the retailer. For decades, CD quality has been the measuring stick consumers have used to assess how good audio can sound. HD resolution is roughly triple the sample rate (44,100 samples per second for CD quality versus 96,000 samples for HD

Foss Car Audio is a five-store retail chain and proud seller of Audison and Hertz products.

“We found there were a small group of dealers that got it.” Jason Digos, Technical Director, elettromedia

50  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

standing relationship with Rob Wempe. “We know Rob from our Rockford days,” Rodriguez stated. “We got together and determined we could help. It’s a good feeling to be with people who love the industry.” Ed Webber spoke to the advantages of working with a product they believe in. “We A-B it against others—even the big brands at a lower price point.” The resulting comparison often results in the customer choosing the Elettromedia gear, even when that gear is more expensive. “It performs at the price points. It really starts with that,” Webber said. “They take care of us on warranty and do a darn good job of keeping it clean

audio) and 33 percent higher in digital bit rate. The resulting jump in sound quality is what the manufacturer banks on to leverage a premium upgrade in audio equipment. Larry Penn of Mobile Solutions in Calgary, Canada participates in Audison’s “high level” trainings and national events, often as a presenter or as one of the trainers. “Audison’s focus is on digital high-resolution audio,” Penn explained. “The processors have to be extended to full HD audio, able to process 96/24, as do the amps. We are trying to show people the last big blast in technology that helped drive better quality products to be sold,m






















Installation Everything.






GRAM   51 • 800-444-1644

 behind the scenes

The company, based out of Irvine, Calif., sells to hundreds of dealers around the country and is known for its strong dealer support. and better quality products to be made, was the CD player.” Penn explained the evolution of cassette to CD was the justification consumers needed to invest in better (and more expensive) audio gear. “They found the music was more dynamic than a cassette tape. It really gave a reason to go from a $300 amp to a $1,000 amp.” Since the advent of compressed music, the market has shifted away from highend sound quality. The motivation to get that $1,000 amp became less and less compelling. Audison decided to follow the home audio industry, and go into high resolution media to help dealers understand how that could help drive the customer toward a bigger investment in sound. The Bit DMI replaces the most factory amps. Found on many German vehicles, the system uses an optical signal from the head unit to the factory amplifier. “The box tricks the radio into believing the amp is still in the system,” Penn said. “Bit Play is a leap above the most signal. It can support 96/24 with the push of a button, and the new Prima amplifiers now have a digital input so you can plug it right into the Bit Play. Part of Elettromedia’s training is to show people where to get HD media online. Websites like Society of Sound, Linn records, HD tracks and Pro Studio Masters all offer high-resolution, uncompressed audio tracks that are recorded properly. Another challenge is educating fabricators that have opened car audio stores to

52  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

understand the digital realm, and to train people who aren’t acoustical engineers. Penn stressed the importance of knowing how to properly set up these processors and how to make them sound good. “Without the training, you can also make the car sound a lot worse, just as easily as you can make it sound great.” Jason Digos is Elettromedia’s Technical Director in the U.S. He has trained for over a decade, and has more than 30 years of total experience in the industry. His goal has been more than training. It’s been retaining the information long after the training has ended. “The OEMs are integrating not only the audio functions but a lot of the vehicle functions into one main unit,” Digos said. In the whirlwind of touchscreens, menu systems and technological convenience, the sound quality can get lost in the mix. Digos goes on to explain that in order for Elettromedia to grow, they have to be able to integrate amplifiers and speakers in those cars, even in the face of irreplaceable head units. “We identified our strengths and started training Bit processor integration techniques,” Digos said. “We found there were a small group of dealers that got it. But the majority of dealers didn’t get it, which was puzzling to us.” Research found that the issue was not that they didn’t get it. They simply didn’t remember it. “The dealer would go through the training, wait for that special car, and wouldn’t remember the training, or couldn’t apply it,” Digos recalls. “We try

to get feedback during our training, and of course everyone says they get it. That they love it, then they try to use it in the real world, but too much time has gone by and they’ve forgotten.” Focus has shifted as a result, and they are now working on training the fundamentals of car audio. The basics of how to measure and how to integrate, and use measuring tools like an RTA, oscilloscope and other methods of refining the signal are covered in detail. Digos believes that the basics are in fact a missing art form, and while there are many talented fabricators, the ability to optimize an amp and use an equalizer is becoming increasingly rare. “The awareness of our industry is dwindling, so when a consumer does find us, it’s hard for them to hand over their brand new vehicle if they’re not comfortable with the installer’s ability to handle a complicated electrical system,” Digos said. “Retailers that present themselves as a specialist and present that value to the customer…these are the guys who get it, and they succeed.” If Foss Car Audio is any example, Elettromedia’s success lies not just in solid products or reliable business practices. A retailer has to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid, and believe in the product. Despite having limited brand recognition in the consumer world, Audison and Hertz both thrive because, as Ed Webber put it: “They have to be better at it.” 

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 installs

Stealth Tesla


A customer brought in this 2015 Tesla Model S 85 wanting a stealth installation. Ramirez and his team achieved this by pressing aluminum grills to hide the subwoofers and the enclosures were wrapped in factory-matched trunk liner. Two Audiomobile 10-inch subwoofers were used in one cubic foot of custom fiberglass enclosures on either side of the

54  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

trunk, which made sure the customer lost zero trunk space. Morel Virtus 603 three way components were used in the front only (no rear speakers were installed, only front stage and subs). An Audison bit Ten D was used for digital signal processing. All wiring is Stinger. Fast rings were used on the mid bass drivers and

STP sound deadening was used in the doors. All the speakers fit in the factory locations but composite adaptors were fabricated to mount the new mid bass drivers in the doors. A Phoenix Gold SX 1200.5 was used for its high power output, high sound quality and low power consumption.   55

 installs


This 2015 Polaris Ranger was purchased by Will Talmadge, owner of Sound Line Design, for use as a shop demo vehicle. The shop does quite a bit in the marine and powersports segments, so this was a great way to try to increase those sales. Knapp did most of the work on the build with help from Brian Knagge. The build consisted of an Audison bit Ten D processor, Wet Sounds SYN4 4-channel amplifier (to power the rear speakers, and the upcoming front speakers), Wet Sounds SYN2 2-channel amplifier (to power the subwoofer), Wet Sounds XS-650 coaxial speakers, Wet Sounds XS12 subwoofer, Shuriken SK-BT75 battery, Wet Sounds RGB LEDs with music interface 50-inch

56  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

and 12-inch LED light bars.All the materials used in the build were all-weather, including marine plywood, fiberglass, lexan, ABS, and Allsport Vinyl. Everything painted blue is Lexan. In addition to the overhead console, grills were made to vent the subwoofer. The subwoofer sits under the passenger seat in the spot the battery was in. A metal bracket assembly was fabricated to relocate the battery on the side of the Ranger. The subwoofer fires forward through the grill. An additional grill was made for the driver’s side, but it is purely cosmetic, for symmetry reasons. Tuning was evaluated not only for the response in the seating position, but also a few intervals of distance away from the Ranger (using a hand held Phonic PAA3 RTA). The idea was to end up with great sound no matter where someone is in proximity to the vehicle.


A full install was completed on this Harley Street Glide. The customer was referred to Hall via a relationship he has with another local business that recently got out of car audio to focus on its home audio installations. The bike was sent to the local Harley dealer to have some engine and cosmetic upgrades. An Alpine Bluetooth head unit was used in conjunction with a Rockford Fosgate marine-grade 4-channel amplifier.

The customer had ordered, painted and installed the new lids and fairing. Hall and team took care of all the sound stage with a Focal Performance Series 6.5 coaxial speaker, with a total of six speakers used. All speakers are backed with Boom Mat speaker pods and other areas were dampened with Dynamat Xtreme. The engine area, front fender and lower rear bags were back-lit with blue LED pods.

The customer’s expectations were exceeded with a timely install and high quality of work. The owner rides this bike cross country and attends many bike nights in the area. Other owners have contacted Mobile Sound Solutions to get their bikes up to par with this Street Glide.   57

µ guest forum

Hosting Events to “Drive” Business


ith all of the ways that businesses can reach their customers—Facebook, Google ads, etc.—your clients are exposed to hundreds of advertising messages every day. How can you differentiate your brand and make sure your voice gets heard over all the noise? With technology becoming more and more mobile, many businesses have lost sight of the value of faceto-face contact with customers. Hosting an in-store or in-parking lot event can be one of the best ways to raise awareness of your company and the solutions you provide in your local market. Face-to-face events allow your clients to have exclusive access to new products, innovative technologies, automobile safety solutions and the myriad solutions that your company provides in the 12-volt world. To be truly elegant, much of what you sell needs to be invisible. How do you sell what is invisible? Host an event that exposes customers, and their friends, to all the great products and services we offer. We all sell to the early adopting community, and they never stop early adopting. Recommend to your clients that they invite their friends and family. Face-to-face events also have the advantage of creating strong, qualified leads. Requiring customers to register for a raffle, or collecting information during the event, provides your business with new leads and email addresses to follow up with, guaranteeing return-on-investment (ROI). After the event, put that contact information into TSS for future use with your Revenew marketing platform. How can you organize your own successful event? The first step is to decide on your theme. Themes can take the form of a Safety Campaign touting the importance of back-up cameras or Bluetooth integration for hands-free solutions. Anniversary Sales, Clearance Sales, Toys for Tots, supporting a local food bank (attendees provide a can of food), and even Small Business Saturday are great excuses for throwing a party. If you don’t have the space, rent a parking lot and showcase demo cars. If your customers and salespeople have some awesome technology in their cars, have them participate too. Nothing creates more confidence and enthusiasm than your happy customers showing off your professional services!

Some event tips to consider: • Ask your best vendor partners to participate,co-sponsor and to possibly supply tchotchkes. Ask for prizes to raffle at the event.

58  Mobile Electronics  June 2015

• Ask vendors, or other industry luminaries, to present educational seminars. • Contact Revenew and ask about the Event In-aBox solution (312-888-4700). • Post the event on your website and Facebook page. • Pick a date: make sure it is not too close to a holiday, or that some other local event competes. • Send out your invitations (digital and postcards) six weeks prior to the event and include not only customers, but also local influencers and local media. • Write a blog about the event. Post it and submit it to local media. • When it’s all over, add the collected e-mails to your TSS/Revenew platform, and send your guests a thank you note. The most important aspect of an event is to make sure that it offers something valuable to the customer. Once you determine what type of event you will host, you can begin to invite your guests. If the objective of your event is bringing repeat customers back into your store, consider sending emails. For an event focused on bringing in new customers, consider online paid ads, such as Facebook ads, that can be adjusted to display to audiences that have interests that tie-in with what your business offers. In-store collateral, such as posters and brochures, can help to encourage attendees to learn more about your business. Make sure your event includes a party atmosphere. Buy helium balloons, grill some hotdogs and serve some lemonade. Attention to a few festive details will ensure your success. Like all other marketing efforts, advertising your event isn’t a “one-and-done.” Sending an invitation doesn’t ensure that customers will attend. Plan a schedule to reach out to your customers even after you’ve sent them an invitation to make sure they don’t forget. Have your sales people make phone calls inviting their favorite customers. You can also consider a “drip” approach to advertising your event, which starts off sending email messages a week or two apart, and increasing the frequency as your event gets closer. Send an email or post a Facebook status the day before your event to give all of your customers a final reminder to attend. Finally, the end of the event does not mean the end of engaging with your customers. Do remember that creating a culture of throwing events will ensure that each subsequent event is bigger and better. Don’t leave further engagement to chance! Continued engagement makes your business trustworthy, top-ofmind and reinforces your reputation as the local expert clients will turn to in the future. 



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Mobile Electronics June 2015  

Mobile Electronics magazine June 2015

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