By Clint Simone
How the Mobile-Electronics Market Is Adapting to Rapid Change
Advances in Automotive Technology Integration
Companies such as Pioneer are now offering an entire line of products that are compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The SPH-DA120 (left) brings the full range of CarPlay capabilities to an aftermarket interface.
SEMA News recently spoke with a selection of representatives from within the mobile-electronics industry to see where the market is at present, where it is headed tomorrow, and what we might see in the years ahead. Overall, the rapid pace of technology has meant that the segment has seen significant change in recent years, including changes that have disrupted the status quo and also created new opportunities.
As a direct response to expanded personal-device use, today’s current mobile-electronics marketplace is still benefitting from opportunities created by smartphone integration. The consensus around Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is widely positive, as both aftermarket and original-equipment manufacturers (OEM) are finding new ways to use smartphones to bring entertainment and information into the car.
CarPlay, the handiwork of Apple Inc., translates many of the iPhone’s features to an automotive interface, with the intention being to focus the driver’s attention more on the road and less on the phone. The app-style display of CarPlay is also extremely familiar to the consumer base.
Android Auto, the Google approach to the same solution, works with Android smartphones. According to Amy Gilroy, CEOutlook newsletter editor, “Many dealers are doing well with this integration; it is bringing people into stores. I think it is a very important feature that has a lot of media buzz around it.”
Said Shaun Findley, general manager of safety, connectivity, integration and audio products for AAMP, “Consumers demand more personalization in their technology, and they want it to simplify and enhance their daily lives. CarPlay and Android Auto are contributing to this very demand.
The most recent SEMA Market Research Report confirms this technology’s importance to the mobile-electronics industry, estimating that smartphone integration products produced nearly half a billion dollars in sales in 2015 alone. In short, consumer desire for seamless integration from phone or tablet to car is significant now and will likely continue to be for years to come.
The Voxx Electronics LDWS 100 system uses a front-facing camera that constantly monitors the road ahead. The system also has a built-in data recorder that records on a continuous loop.
The personal-device trend has the weight to open many new doors for manufacturers, but it also closes a few in the process. An example is the changing trend in rear-seat entertainment. As Gilroy noted, “The tablet craze has had a significant impact on the decline of this segment, as many passengers are more inclined to use their own mobile devices over everything else.”
The transition in consumer mentality from headrest-integrated monitors to personal devices is one that is still causing companies within the industry to rethink solutions. Some aftermarket manufacturers are countering this trend by offering larger rear-seat screens and Bluetooth connectivity that allows occupants to use their smartphones to activate the electronic hardware.
While smartphone integration is a major cornerstone of the mobile electronics market now, another emerging technology is driver safety, a trend that is providing a new growth area for the industry.
“Driver safety could be a major prospective area of growth,” Gilroy explained. “It’s at the forefront right now, but it still has a very long way to go.”
Some mobile-electronics companies are stepping up to the challenge by adding technology to their lineup of accessories that has yet to be seen on a widespread level. Such is the case with Brandmotion, the 2015 Professional Restylers Organization (PRO) Manufacturer of the Year, with its recently developed camera safety solutions.
The initial surge in driver-safety products started with the rearview camera. As the technology now makes its way into nearly every new model-year vehicle at the OEM level, some specialty-equipment manufacturers are seeing the chance to retrofit slightly older vehicles to bring them up-to-date.
“People with ‘older’ model years—around 2012—can have access to the same life-saving technology,” said Jeff Varick, president of Brandmotion.
Even vehicles without a center display or navigation system can be upgraded to use this technology via a separate monitor, typically displayed in the rearview mirror.
Steve Koenig, senior director of market research for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), tracks current market trends through manufacturer-to-dealer transactions and forecasts future trends via consumer activity.
The Brandmotion surround-view 360° camera system puts cameras on all sides of the car (front, back and each side), showing the driver a complete view around the vehicle and enabling easier parking and maneuvering.
“Our job is to monitor the entire mobile-electronics ecosystem,” he said.
Koenig estimates that roughly 530,000 aftermarket rearview cameras were sold in 2015, with a projected 519,000 to be sold in 2016. He explained that the CTA anticipates a downward trend with rearview camera sales in the coming years, once the technology is mandated as standard equipment in every new model-year vehicle.
In anticipation of the rearview camera dropoff, some manufacturers are turning to more advanced technology—namely, the 360° vehicle display, a multi-cam setup that depicts the entire surrounding of the vehicle to the driver. This equipment was little known to consumers on an aftermarket level until recently, when Ford made it available as an option for the top-selling F-150.
“It’s a big trend looking forward,” Varick claimed. “The addition of this to the F-150 is really what brought the visibility to the aftermarket.”
The OEMs’ use of 360° camera systems in new model years has given the aftermarket the necessary incentive to push the technology forward, making it available to consumers as a retrofit option or through dealer-installed new models. The 360° system also enables upcoming products for lane-departure warning and other active safety systems.
Another product on the rise thanks to camera technology advancements is the digital video recording (DVR) enabled device, also known as a “dashcam.” Now that compact HD recording devices are regularly available and relatively inexpensive, many consumers are choosing to add DVR mirrors to their cars as an added safety precaution. These products shoot continuous video on a loop and, in the event of an accident or other noteworthy event, the driver has the option to save and upload the footage as necessary.
Voxx Electronics recently debuted its LDWS 100 system—a front-facing camera that uses an audible warning system to alert drivers if the vehicle drifts out of its lane when moving at or above 35 mph. According to the company’s press release, the system will also sound an alert when the vehicle is moving at or above 15 mph and vehicles in front of it suddenly appear too close for safety.
Although the product works actively to assist drivers with safety warnings, “The system also has an active DVR feature enabling it to record continuous video,” said Voxx Electronics Vice President Aron Demers. For Voxx, said Demers, “Many lifestyle consumers—parents who drive their kids around consistently—want these products.”
Although driver safety has yet to reach its full potential in the marketplace, every indication leads to this branch of the mobile-electronics segment growing in the future as manufacturing costs decrease and consumer awareness increases.
Hundreds of mobile-electronics products were entered into the New Products Showcase at the 2015 SEMA Show and appear in this issue starting on p. 114. Taken together, they provide a snapshot of the state of the mobile-electronics marketplace for 2016.