NVS Audio has taken the wraps off its new demo vehicle, a 2004 Chevy Astro Cargo Van. According to owner Carlos Ramirez, the vehicle was purchased to demo the shop’s Rockford Fosgate product remotely, particularly taking it to local car shows. The Chevy features a full vinyl custom graphic wrap with the shop’s logo as well as a healthy dose of Rockford speakers.
Ramirez said the van includes two separate Rockford Fosgate systems. Up front is a sound system with Rockford T3 components, a P3 10-inch subwoofer in the custom center console, and a Power series amp to run the T1000-4ad system up front.
“The rear stereo setup includes four Rockford T2 Power series 15-inch subwoofers in four separate, vented enclosures that are bolted together to form a wall,” he explained.
The van’s interior has hardwood floors and another wall facing out to play to the crowds. Ramirez said there are four Rockford 10-inch Pro mids, four Pro Super Tweeters and four Pro 6-inch mids, all powered by two T2500-1bdCP amps (one on each pair of subs) and two 1000.4ad amps. A 350 AMP Ohio generator alternator is located under the hood and a custom rack behind the subwoofer enclosure with six Interstate power cells.
“One of the coolest features of the van is the fact that we cut a 42-inch LCD TV monitor into the outside driver side of the van,” said Ramirez. “This is a real crowd pleaser at shows. We play Blu-ray movies and run slide shows of our work at events.”
The rack that holds the TV was welded out of ¼- inch steel. Ramirez then molded it into the side of the van by using fiberglass.
“We added a ¼- thick piece of bullet-proof glass over it to protect it, and added a push/pull fan setup under the screen to keep things cool,” added Ramirez. “We also removed the visors in the van and molded three 9-inch screens into the headliner in front and wrapped the whole thing in black suede. The middle screen is for the backup camera and the other two are for DVD video.”
Although iPads and iPhones are some of the most desirable tech gadgets, it appears as if Apple’s invincible run may be over. The world’s largest tech company — and one that has hugely influenced in-vehicle electronics — missed Wall Street's revenue forecast for the third straight quarter. The company released its earnings on Jan. 23, after iPhone sales fell short.
For its next quarter, which ends in March, Apple said it expects to bring in between $41 billion and $43 billion in revenue, below the $45.6 billion forecasted by Wall Street.
The news sent Apple's stock plummeting 10 percent in after-hours trading. Prior to the earnings release, shares of Apple dropped nearly $200 or about 29 percent.
Not only that, Apple also undershot revenue targets in the previous two quarters which may spur questions at to what Apple has lined up for new product and what it can do to generate new sales.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Part of the issue, say analysts, is simply the high expectations that are placed on the company in terms of performance. Apple posted $54.5 billion in revenue, which actually represents a record quarter for the company. Apple shipped 47.8 million iPhones over the sales season, which ended in December. That number was up 29 percent from a year earlier, but below the 50 million that Wall Street had projected.
While iPhones and iPads are the core moneymakers for the company right now (iPhones account for roughly half the company’s revenue), some of Apple’s other products are fading slightly out of favor like Mac computers and iPods, both categories where sales have slowed.
Even as onlookers raise doubts about the company’s revenue growth, CEO Tim Cook was pleased with the numbers. “We're thrilled with record revenue of over $54 billion and sales of over 75 million iOS devices in a single quarter,” Cook said in a statement. “We're very confident in our product pipelines as we continue to focus on innovation and making the best products in the world.”
On the heels of CES, where automakers grabbed a big share of the spotlight, the North American International Auto Show in Detroit opened to the public this week (and runs through Jan. 27) with an emphasis on improved navigation and entertainment systems.
In fact, there probably couldn’t have been a better segue for the auto show than CES, where in-vehicle technology was a key trend and where eight automakers exhibited on the show floor along with more than 100 automotive tech companies. Subaru, for example, chose CES to announce its new in-cabin Starlink infotainment technology that will make its debut in the 2014 Forester.
In Detroit, several key announcements were made including those from Infiniti, Hyundai and Lexus — all revealed new and improved interfaces for upcoming models to be released.
Nissan’s Infiniti Q50, which goes on sale this summer, offers technologies like Direct Adaptive Steering, hailed as a world’s first. It allows independent control of the Q50′s tire angle and steering inputs, and transmits the driver’s intentions to the wheels faster than a mechanical system.
Ultimately, this increases the direct driving performance feel by quickly and intelligently communicating road surface feedback to the driver. Four different steering settings are offered, allowing customization by driver preference or road conditions.
Additionally, there is a fully customizable digital environment for linking driver settings and characteristics to i-Key. Infinit inTouch, the vehicle’s next-generation telematics system, features dual touchscreens (with hand-gesture screen operation), smartphone connectivity, and custom apps. Owners will also be able to update and sync personal apps with their smartphones.
Hyundai showed a concept car that sparked some controversy due to its unique exterior design, but it was all about dashboard interaction on the inside.
Hyundai, which defines its HCD-14 Genesis as a “premium sport four-door coupe,” features — what else? — an iPad dock along with cutting edge eye-tracking (courtesy of two cameras in the steering wheel) and hand-gesture recognition (raising the hand to raise the stereo’s volume) to keep the driver’s eyes on the road for the majority of time. In keeping with that theme, a windshield heads-up display (HUD) also provides minimal driving distraction.
Lexus announced that its IS model has a new state-of-the-art multimedia system that comes with a lifetime subscription to a traffic and weather data feed through the HD Radio.
Other companies also unveiled new vehicles that include HD Radio including Chevrolet, Kia and Jeep.
The largest piece of mobile electronics that we own—the car—is getting connected--a concept which isn’t new, but is now getting a big push because the smartphone is paving the way. The adoption of apps may now make this a mainstream reality sooner than anticipated.
Out at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES), there was a whirlwind of activity with an unprecedented eight car makers and over 100 automotive tech companies who not only had command of the show floor, but also the attention of the media.
One of the big stories and a key push at the show was automakers recognizing the next step in the evolution of in-car computing as they announced they would open up their closed ecosystems and begin reaching out to Web developers to design in-vehicle applications.
With an app-driven infotainment system, consumers could update or change their car’s head unit frequently.
Both General Motors (with MyLink) and Ford (with AppLink) said during CES that they will provide software development kits so designers create new apps for infotainment.
Driving everything is the explosive growth of the smartphone. According to some industry research, there are already more than 1 billion smartphone users, a number that could double by 2015.
“Opening the car to developers gives consumers a direct voice and hand in the creation of apps that can help our products remain relevant, up to date and valuable to our customers,” said Hau Thai-Tang, vice president of engineering, Ford Global Product Development.
GM said it plans to offer a catalog of app options from which customers can choose for their vehicle's infotainment system, beginning with 2014 models.
Four possible apps include those from iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Slacker Radio and the Weather Channel.
And, of course, Ford and GM aren’t the only ones interested in third-party app development.
The Connected Car Consortium (CCC), which now has over 80 percent of the world’s automakers as part of its organization, created a global standard for smartphone and in-vehicle connectivity called MirrorLink.
MirrorLink, which replicates a smartphone screen on an in-vehicle infotainment system’s screen, can be customized to fit the look and design of each car. It allows mobile developers to design mobile apps that work in an infotainment system without having to learn an entirely new platform.
In fact, the CCC is moving things forward by hosting the world’s first MirrorLink DevCon, February 26, 2013, a day-long program that will bring mobile app developers together with members of the connected car universe. It is to be held at the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Also on the scene is Livio Connect which creates a “car mode” for app developers At CES, Livio introduced freemium pricing for app developers at CES in an effort to expand beyond music apps for 2013 and the future.
Mobile electronics maker Griffin Technology has opened five MicroStores in the U.S., this holiday season, a follow-up to the company’s first-ever 1,500 square-foot store — located across from the Olympic Stadium — in London last summer. All of the stores are designed to give shoppers a hands-on chance to get up close and personal with Griffin’s gear.
The MicroStores, which are based in large markets in California, Washington, Maryland, and Tennessee, are interactive, so consumers can walk through and familiarize themselves with the Griffin brand as well as experience products in their typical environments. The stores are kiosks in open, common areas of malls, according to Jackie Ballinger Anderson, Griffin’s public relations director. “These are designed to maximize high-traffic areas and have spaces and layouts that encourage customers to walk through,” she said.
Showcased in each of the MicroStores are Griffin’s key products including in-car accessories like the company’s signature family of iTrip FM transmitters, the AppPowered Accessories line, along with a wide range of iOS cases, and even a toy station for demoing remote-controlled helicopters and vehicles. Completing the experience is a Charge Bar to juice up mobile devices, to learn more about Griffin products, and for surfing the Internet.
Griffin’s MicroStores are located at Westfield Annapolis in Annapolis, Maryland; Westfield San Francisco Centre in San Francisco, California; Westfield Southcenter in Seattle, Washington; Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose, California; and CBL Properties Cool Springs Galleria in Franklin, Tennessee just outside Nashville, where Griffin is headquartered. The Cool Springs MicroStore features a unique 32-foot-tall Griffin-branded tower visible from both the first and second floors.
“This is a trial for us,” Anderson said. “We want to see how things work out. We know it’s a good format, but right now we are focused on getting past the holidays.” The stores, which opened late November, will continue operating into the new year. There are no set plans for additional stores at this time.
Griffin, which is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, has been in business 20 years. It was founded on Paul Griffin's kitchen table and today offers home, mobile, and personal accessories.
My first car was a red Firebird. I don’t even remember what the other choices were on the lot, but the red spoke to me and I was sold. Next car was a black Jeep Wrangler followed by a white Jeep Cherokee. Today, I am riding around in a deep-blue Hyundai Tucson.
With our cars, our clothes, and our gear, we express ourselves. Here is what the new year holds in terms of color trends.
Paint Company DuPont on Dec. 6 released its annual Color Popularity Report, and for the second year in a row white and white pearl are the most popular car colors in the world. Not surprisingly, basic black (and black effects) are second, followed by silver and gray. In the fifth slot is my color red with blue, brown/beige, green and then yellow.
Here in North America, the results stack up about the same as they do worldwide. Leading the color charge—or rather lack of it—are white and white pearl with black, silver and gray. Red, which was fifth worldwide, was also in the fifth slot for North America.
The DuPont report is now in its 60th year, and holds the distinction of being the largest and longest running report of its kind in the auto industry. It features automotive color popularity rankings and regional trends from 11 leading automotive regions of the world.
While white’s popularity has remained across all vehicle segments over the last decade, it historically had been most popular among the truck segment. Past advancements in pearlescent whites allowed this color to initially break into the luxury segments.
“Today, white tri-coats are more readily applicable to the global manufacturing base and evoke quality and value among a variety of vehicle segments,” according to Nancy Lockhart, DuPont color marketing manager. “Solid whites have been seen in vanilla shades, stone shades and the current preference of bright whites.”
“Silver peaked during the start of the digital age, between 2000 and 2006,” she continued. “We’re seeing more luxury vehicle purchases now that the economy has started to stabilize, and vehicles painted black/black effect are seen as luxury status symbols in several key global markets.”
Red, gray and brown/beige each gained a percentage point since last year’s report, while blue maintained equal share from the 2011 rankings.
For the first time since 1998, silver did not lead in any of the North American vehicle segments, but it did hold steady in third place overall. This might be due to black and white leading the charge as status symbols for luxury and quality.
Gray rose two percentage points this year with increases in the truck, luxury and intermediate vehicle segments. The top four preferences, white, black, silver, and gray, have represented the majority of popularity the last 10 years.
Red rounded out the top five color choices across each vehicle segment and consequently, overall in the region, with 10 percent of the market. Popularity rankings of red (10 percent), blue (7 percent), brown/beige (5 percent), yellow/gold (2 percent), and green (2 percent) show bright colors are widely noticed on the road but do not make up the majority of consumer preferences.
Colors in the “Noble Ambition” group represent exceptional luxury and quality—and are the hues most associated with luxury goods throughout history. Colors include a jewel-like green, “Ivy League,” a pearlescent white, “Prince Charming,” and a bold bronze, “Nobelist."
And speaking of green, Pantone has named emerald its Color of the Year for 2013. The company, which creates and matches colors for the fashion, home and beauty industries, among others, picks its top hue based on both how it's already being used and a prediction of sustained popularity.
The hue is representative of growth, renewal, healing, unity and regeneration, according to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, all of which she said are long overdue.
Black Friday has morphed into “Black Weekend” as shoppers got busy on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Sunday, and Cyber Monday.
According to comScore, Black Friday saw $1 billion in online sales making it the heaviest online spending day to date in 2012. It marks a 26 percent increase from last year. Even Thanksgiving Day, not typically a big shopping day, had a 32 percent increase in sales to $633 million.
John Coleman, owner of Stereo King, for the second time in a row had a Black Friday promotion going. “We thought we would get lost in the shuffle in years past, so we opted out,” said Coleman. “Last year we engaged for Black Friday and hit it hard,” he said. “We experienced a 20 percent increase in sales in the two-week period beginning Black Friday.”
This year, noted Coleman, advertising for the Black Friday event began on the Tuesday right before the holiday. The chain had sales on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but Coleman wasn’t getting into the Thanksgiving Day fray like some of the big box retailers. “There’s no need to get up at midnight,” he said. “We opened for regular hours.”
Stores raked in an estimated $59.1 billion in sales from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday, up from $52.4 billion a year earlier, as millions of shoppers jammed stores and browsed online, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Spending per shopper jumped 6 percent to $423.
The spending mania continued into Cyber Monday, the first day back to business for many after the holiday weekend, and a day now associated with workers shopping online in their cubicles or from their offices.
Best Buy did particularly well with its cyber sales. The consumer electronics retailer had the nation's third-busiest retail website on Black Friday, according to comScore.
The company said Best Buy ranked behind Amazon and Walmart but ahead of Target.
According to Elliott Chun, communications manager, at FutureShop, a subsidiary of Best Buy, the chain (and the largest consumer electronics store in Canada with 149 stores), was up from last year on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
“It was our fourth go with Black Friday and our third with Cyber Monday,” he said. “And mobile electronics is something where have seen a lot of uptick.”
The company also benefitted from the launch of its mobile app a few years back with a transactional portion so that consumers can enjoy the full-cycle experience on their mobile devices, Chun said. The mobile apps, for both Apple and Android devices, have seen huge growth with a combined 600,000 downloads.
While cell phones and headphones saw brisk sales for gifts, said Chun, car audio and car solutions got a bump, too. “People may want to upgrade to a new deck so they can access the apps on their smartphones. We’re also seeing more people who want to add an auxiliary port to play music off their smartphones.”
Cyber Monday, said Chun, is the company’s second biggest online sales day. It is right behind a holiday that isn’t celebrated here in the U.S. “Boxing Day is our number one sales day, but our sales actually start on December 24. It is the same frenzy of Black Friday in the U.S.”
Regardless of which day retailers saw the biggest spike, the mood seems to be positive as the holidays draw closer.
“Everyone is feeling very bullish," said Matthew Shay, chief executive of the NRF. “We are really seeing a five-day weekend that started on Thursday and ends on Monday. The entire week is really getting extended with special promotions that roll out in waves.”
I went to one of those colleges with an intense football rivalry, and this weekend my body clock is set. I will be watching when my alma mater, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, take on the Lafayette Leopards in the 148th meeting of the two schools.
It was very timely then to receive the Acoustic Research MVP Portable Wireless Speaker, the AWSBTSK, to test out for this annual fist-pumping occasion. I was already familiar with the speaker since Voxx had a previous version (AWSBT1), a CES Innovations award winner, but this one takes it to a more personal level. It gives you the option to customize it with a cover — and there are plenty of choices from Skinit. Mine has the Lehigh Mountain Hawk, but you can select a cover design from hundreds of pro sports teams and colleges, images from the entertainment world, or social icons.
When I got the speaker out of the box, I could definitely appreciate the rugged exterior and the built-in carrying handle making this a no-brainer for tailgates, road trips, outdoor parties, soccer practices, or beach days. I also like the convenient padded storage compartment in the back of the speaker, which makes it safe for storing your phone, digital audio player, keys, or other small personal items.
Set up took under two minutes — I loaded in 6 AA batteries (but you can also plug in with the included AC adapter), turned the speaker on, and waited for the blue blinking light. With the Bluetooth enabled on my smartphone, I then pressed the “Pair” button on the top of the speaker and held it for a few seconds until the blue light started blinking faster. Then I selected AWSBTSK on my phone and when the light turned to a solid blue, I was synced and ready to go.
Sure, I’ve used Bluetooth speakers before but there is something exciting, fashionable, and personal about having a Lehigh Mountain Hawk on my device. Every AR MVP Portable Wireless Speaker comes with a redemption card good for one speaker skin on skinit.com/sportspeaker. Enter the code from the card, choose the design you want from the thousands available, or create your own design using Skinit online customizer, and then drop it in your cart. The redemption card covers shipping and handling as well, so it’s a $34.99 value in total. The speaker retails for $129.99.
It could be sign of what is to come in other states, but texting while driving just got even more expensive for those who get caught.
Motorists in Connecticut and Massachusetts may want to keep their eyes peeled for police spotters—not just hiding behind bushes and perched on the median strip—but for cops who are now going to be lurking on overpasses. They’ll be looking for people who are texting while driving.
Both of those states have been given a total of $550,000 in grants (each state gets $275,000) from the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced, “to help them plan and conduct high-visibility anti-texting enforcement programs.”
Police officers are being trained in methods to better spot text offenders in action as well as in how to develop awareness campaigns that alert the public to the hazards of texting and driving. Funds will aid with developing anti-texting enforcement protocols and techniques like using stationary patrols, spotters on overpasses on elevated roadways, and roving patrols, noted Ray LaHood in his Fast Lane blog on fastlane.dot.gov.
The methods will be evaluated in four successive waves of high-visibility enforcement activities during a two-year period. Results will then be shared other states.
“I look forward to seeing the results of the new enforcement programs announced today as we work to put an end to this deadly behavior,” LaHood noted, adding that the DOT has been tackling the issue for more than three years, but still has much work to be done.
Presently, there are 39 states (including Connecticut and Massachusetts) that have passed laws that ban texting while driving. Hand-hell cell phone use while driving has been banned in 10 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia.)
Things are looking up with the economy as two big-ticket sales items — cars and homes — have rebounded this fall. It also bodes well for mobile electronics retailers who, along with the rest of the retail community, may see a healthy holiday selling season both in stores and online.
Autos were driven off lots at the highest sales rate in four years, according to the research firm Autodata. Overall, a total of 1.19 million cars, trucks and SUVs were sold in the U.S. during September, a 13 percent jump from a year ago. Japanese and German manufacturers led the way.
Boosting car sales were several factors: consumers who needed to replace aging vehicles, an influx of fuel-efficient cars now on the market, and cheaper loans.
GM, the largest U.S. automaker, said sales of its mini, small and compact cars almost doubled during September. Ford's small car sales rose about 73 percent. Chrysler said its September sales increased roughly 12 percent from the year-ago period. The company said it sold 142,000 vehicles, and each of its brands had gains, led by an 18 percent increase at Dodge largely because of the introduction of the Dodge Dart. Volkswagen said it sold 48,000 Volkswagen and Audi brand vehicles in September, a 32.4 percent increase from a year ago.
The nation enjoyed another year-over-year surge in home prices (9.5 percent) in August — a sign that the housing industry, too, is making a comeback. The National Association of Realtors forecasts U.S. existing-home sales to rise about 9 percent this year.
Both key trends reflect rising consumer confidence in the economy, a reassuring sign heading into the all-important fourth quarter.
Even with political uncertainty and fiscal challenges, the holiday season looks promising with a projected 4.1 percent increase to $586.1 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.
According to the NRF, it’s the most optimistic forecast the association has released since the recession.
“In spite of the uncertainties that exist in our economy and among consumers, we believe we’ll see solid holiday sales growth this year,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Variables including an upcoming presidential election, confusion surrounding the ‘fiscal cliff’ and concern relating to future economic growth could all combine to affect consumers’ spending plans, but overall we are optimistic that retailers promotions will hit the right chord with holiday shoppers.”
For the first time in its history, Shop.org just released its 2012 online holiday sales forecast, expecting sales to grow 12 percent over last holiday season to as much as $96 billion. Shop.org defines the holiday season as sales in the months of November and December.