Dealerscope Talks To: John Shalam

An interview with the new CEA Digital Patriot

John Shalam, VOXX International Corp. chairman and a 2014 CEA Digital Patriot Award honoree, started his company in 1965 and built it into a domestic and international marketer of 30 brands of consumer electronics in the speaker, mobile electronics and multimedia, vehicle security and mobile video systems and accessories categories. NASDAQ-listed, VOXX had sales of $835 million in 2013. Here, he looks back – and ahead, at the future of consumer electronics.

Dealerscope: So much has changed in our industry in the 49 years since you started your company. Looking back, if you had to pinpoint some turning points for you over that time period, what were they – and how did they affect your business?

John Shalam: In the early ’70s, a major turning point was when we introduced an 8-track player that was different. They were very popular at the time but were always installed under the dash and always getting stolen. I came up with the idea of combining an 8-track player with an AM/FM stereo radio that could be installed inside the dashboard to replace the radio. Once you install a product inside the dashboard, it’s much more difficult to steal it. We introduced the first one, which I called the In-Dasher, and it sold like hotcakes. That was in 1973 or 1974. That really launched us as an autosound company.

The other major turning point was in 1984, when I introduced the first car telephone, under the Audiovox brand. That took a lot of doing. There were very few manufacturers of these phones, and I knew Toshiba of Japan was making them. I went there and prevailed upon them and they agreed to start shipping those cellular phones. So we brought the first one in. We gave an order for a thousand pieces in the first month and we were selling them for $1,500. And in the first month, I sold 15! But the next month, we sold 150, and then it kept growing and growing and it became huge. I always knew it would become a tremendous business because Americans love two things: they love motorcars and they love phones and talking and communicating. And that combination was a natural. That enabled us to do our IPO in 1987.

Editor in chief of Dealerscope
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