12 Volt Tech : Stand By Me
Auto Sound Company: 40 Years of Treating Car Dealerships, Customers CorrectlyNovember 2011 By Brett Solomon
The Auto Sound Company, with locations in Plainville and Middleton, Mass., story goes back over 40 years ago. Back in 1971, a young engineer working at Audiovox (coincidentally) found that many vehicles were being ordered by dealerships without radios. Back then, most chose AM, and the best sound systems were AM/FM, a far cry from today.
Ronald Needleman approached the president of Audiovox, John Shalam, who was already importing aftermarket radios that looked like OEM units. He wanted to take the units directly to car dealerships in Massachusetts, an untapped market. The Auto Sound Company was born. The installation of these OEM lookalikes was initially exclusive to car dealerships. Then two years into the business, Needleman opened a retail store in Brockton, Mass. It was a nice addition to the business model since it represented a 'cash and carry' business. The dealership business was performed on net 30-day terms.
Howard Honigbaum came on the scene in 1974, became treasurer in 1980 and president since 1990. He is one of the originals who has seen the growth of the aftermarket 12-volt world firsthand from its infancy to where it is today. But, more importantly Auto Sound has the unique perspective of performing as both a brick-and-mortar retailer and an expeditor. Honigbaum noted, "The expediting business in this tough economy is very demanding. Most dealerships we do business with spot-deliver every vehicle. This basically means that when the car is sold, they want it out the door in hours, not days.
"This puts tremendous pressure on our installation team to perform these installs in a timely manner. Since there are less customers visiting car dealerships during a weak economy, most dealerships look at our services as a source of more profits since vehicle profits have been eroding."
This is also another advantage of the Internet, where a few clicks can yield invoice pricing to the customer. He continued, "In many cases, the dealer can make many times more in gross profit by selling one of our aftermarket products then he made on the entire vehicle itself."
We asked Honigbaum about the hot sellers. "It definitely starts with remote starters. Other good profit centers are leather interiors, power moonroofs, mobile video and OEM-look navigation units."
Hands-On Customer Service
Auto Sound Company now has two locations that perform both retail and wholesale installations. "We have dedicated retail techs at each location," said Honigbaum. "But we also have dedicated moonroof and leather techs."