12V: Taking it to the Streets (and Dealers)
Hitting the Road with Manufacturers’ Support
Summertime is the epicenter for car customization. Although other times of year may prove fruitful for aftermarket electronics, the summertime is when the younger sect is hanging out late and thinking about their rides. Sonic drive-ins are hopping across the country, and no one wants to have the audio system that is topped by the speaker built into the drive-in pushbutton ordering system. It is way more fun to ruin someone else’s order and startle an employee on roller skates with a shockingly loud-and-clear audio system.
That enthusiasm spreads itself to the sales floor the next day. Last night’s impromptu parking-lot competition drives today’s sales. Top retailers have known for years that the best way to promote grassroots local marketing is to hit up local sites that are hotbeds of activity with a hooked-up demo vehicle. These include drive-in restaurants and high school parking lots. The tried-and-true method of passing out business cards jammed into the door weather-stripping has even been coupled to having onlookers follow the shop on Instagram. This way, reminders of hot installations can be circulated at all times of year. The downside is, you have to have a few reliable employees out there to man the fleet and make it happen.
The owner should also partake…it is never a chore to drum up business! But perhaps the best way to keep a fleet of proper demo vehicles promoting your store is to promote employees souping-up their own rides. Manufacturers are usually keen to cooperate with deep discounts on equipment and support to make their products shine in the spotlight. If you see a new product an installer is drooling over, talk to the rep about a discount program. Perhaps step in and purchase it for him or her. That is a surefire way to get a tech excited to show off their own ride as a demo vehicle to customers. Savvy manufacturers maintain their own fleet of demo vehicles so they in turn can show off their own new products at retailers. It’s leadership by example.
The outside sales team for Metra Electronics will be on the road in a new fleet of branded trucks, decked out with the latest aftermarket products from their 12-volt brands. The 2018 Chevrolet Colorado trucks have headed out to cover different regions around the U.S. Jake Bates is the vice president of sales at Metra. He noted: “By using and experiencing our solutions firsthand, our sales team will be better positioned to showcase our products to our customers. It’s one thing to show a product in the box, but now our outside sales representatives will be able to show products which have been installed into the vehicle and integrated with factory and aftermarket systems.” The trucks have been outfitted with Heise LED lighting systems throughout. They feature replacement headlight and fog light bulbs, an eight-pod RGB rock light kit, a tailgate lightbar and track, LED strip lighting in the bed of the truck, accent lights in the interior and a 30-inch Blackout Series dual-row LED light bar in the front grill. On top of a Rhino Rack are two 39.5-inch Slimline single-row LED light bars, two 22-inch Blackout Series dual-row lightbars, amber cube spotlights, green high-output LED hunting cube flood beam lights, cube flood lights, roll bar clamps and mounts. Switches from Metra’s The Install Bay lineup are located inside the truck bed to control the lighting. All it takes are a few flips of the switches at dusk to get both store employees and customers super-excited.
In addition to the lighting, Metra wanted to showcase its safety products. The demo trucks have iBeam Vehicle Safety Systems integrated into the new radio. The 360-degree 3D view TE-360-3D camera system gives drivers a bird’s-eye view of the vehicle using four aftermarket camera feeds all stitched together. The rear-view camera has been customized to fit into the tailgate handle for an unobtrusive, OEM-style look. There is also an iBeam Microwave Blind Spot Detection System (TE-BSM) to assist with lane-changing. It is activated by turn signal triggers. The system’s two microwave sensors will warn the driver of vehicles in their blind spots via LED visual indicators on either side of the vehicle in addition to an audible alert.
A new radio was installed using the 95-3016G Metra TurboKit for the 2018 Chevrolet Colorado with Metra’s speaker adapters and speaker harnesses. For seamless integration, the GMOS-LAN-09 interface from Axxess was installed with the ASWC-1 Steering Wheel Control Interface to retain factory functions for the new head unit. One very cool new product is a vehicle-specific USB Hub Replacement Knockout from Axxess (AX-GMUSBAUX-3). The unit gives the customer the ability to retain the auxiliary jack, in addition to adding two USB ports and an HDMI port.
The Metra trucks would not be complete without an updated sound system. To improve the sound quality, an Axxess Digital Signal Processor (AX-DSP) was installed with a two-channel and four-channel micro-power amplifiers by Metra PowerSports (MPS-AMP100X2 and MPS-AMP60X4). The system is powered by Shuriken high-performance batteries with T-Spec wiring, fuse holders and distribution blocks. A license plate kit (SDHP-LIC) from the Ballistic Hollow Point Series is used for vibration and sound damping. No one likes a shuddering license plate! Team Metra’s trucks will be on the road this summer, and making appearances at shows, industry events, and retailers. Customers are welcome to follow the #TeamMetra hashtag and Metra Electronics’ 12 volt brands on social media to see more images of the trucks.
Alpine’s Demo Vehicles
Alpine Electronics has also unleashed a trio of demo vehicles to traverse the U.S. To show the company’s prowess in OEM integration, they chose vehicles from three major manufacturers: a Toyota Tacoma, Ford F-150, and Ram 1500. Each are mobile showcases for the Alpine HALO9 in-dash system and X-Series sound system products. Mike Anderson, vice president and general manager of Alpine, stated: “The trucks are not just eye candy for the road. They are part of a complete training and event package that Alpine brand specialists will deploy at authorized retailers and consumer events where attendees can receive immersive and impactful sound demos.” The demo truck experience includes in-truck sound demos and hands-on product education sessions to give guests a better understanding of the materials and processes used in these high-end products. The trucks feature similar Alpine systems set up to complement each host vehicle, showcasing the HALO9 as a centerpiece. For those not familiar with it, the anticipated HALO9 is a mechless system with a 9-inch touch screen featuring Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth wireless technology. Its unique design allows the screen to hover above the dashboard, eliminating the need for custom installation of the large screen.
The sound system for each truck consists of a sound processor and X-Series speakers, amplifiers, and subwoofers. The Tacoma and F-150 system measure in at 2300W RMS, and the Ram 1500’s system at 3200W RMS. The F-150 and Ram 1500 have a custom three-way system in the front consisting of the woofer from the X-S69C 6x9-inch set, along with the X-S65C 6.5-inch component set installed in custom A-pillars. The Tacoma uses the X-S69C two-way speakers in the front factory locations. X-Series 6.5-inch speakers are used for rear fill on all the trucks and are installed in the factory speaker locations. For bass impact, the Tacoma and F-150 both feature a single X-W10D4 10-inch subwoofer in a ported enclosure. The Ram 1500 has two X-W10D4 subwoofers in a pair of custom sealed boxes installed under the truck. The subs are mounted in the floor and fire upwards into the cab. In all the trucks, the subwoofers are powered by the X-A90M mono amplifier, while two X-A70F four-channel amplifiers power the front and rear speakers.
Tying the entire sound system together is the PXE-0850S wireless digital sound processor. With its 12 channels of outputs, the PXE-0850S allows for the management of complex, multi-channel systems. It lets users apply detailed sound tuning and adjustments through a smartphone or PC app. The HCE-C2600FD multi-view front camera and the factory rear camera provide peace of mind when driving, while the KCX-C2600B front and rear camera selector enables quick toggling between the front and back camera images.
AAMP brand Stinger jumped onboard the project to provide sound damping products, wire, and wiring accessories. The Ram 1500 is equipped with KMC Wheels which were provided by Wheel Pros and are used with Pro Comp tires. The Tacoma and F-150 feature ProComp wheels and tires. BAK Industries’ tonneau covers are installed on the truck beds. The trucks will mainly reside in three regions, with the Tacoma based in California, the F-150 in Texas, and the Ram 1500 on the East Coast. Authorized Alpine retailers are encouraged to contact their sales rep for information about the schedule for each truck.