The New World Order of OEM Integration
One of the best selling tools any specialty retailer can use to satisfy its customers is options. Just ten years ago, if a customer wanted to upgrade his or her audio system, you could a) present the case for upgrading the head unit, b) upgrade the speakers, c) upgrade the amplification, d) add a subwoofer, or e) pitch them on all of the above. It was also common practice among high-end dealers to retain the factory head unit and use a combo of choices b, c, and d. The dealer could easily plop in better speakers for the first wave of upgrades for those customers who did not want a severe financial hit all at once. After this wave, the customer could incrementally add components to come up with a dream system. Another common practice was to convince the customer to spend money on a high-end head unit (choice “a”) since that would allow for easier high-end upgrades in the future and more features in the meantime.
There was a glorious time when people would come in for a new radio and instead of boxing up the factory unit, the customer wouldn’t care if you threw it into oncoming traffic. Nowadays, it is rare for a customer to want to junk the factory head unit in a high-end automobile. Sure, it can be done, but the added complexity of losing a way-cool navigation system, integrating new steering-wheel controls, adding auxiliary Bluetooth and satellite radio capabilities, and fabricating a good-looking surround for the head unit in the OEM cavity takes a lot of work and major expense. In the old days, a well-designed passive OEM integration device would allow the installer to tap into the factory head unit with something as simple as isolated output transformers in a nice ABS plastic case. Easy as pie. Now, only hardcore audiophiles are willing to sacrifice the convenience of the OEM head unit. But that does not leave the mobile electronics dealer in the lurch. Indeed, the game has changed but it is still viable to get amazing sound quality out of an OEM head unit while the retailer can add upgraded speakers and amplification. Amazingly, these two segments also offer the retailer more markup than head units. Now, the simple black box has been replaced with sophisticated ‘Active’ units. Are they more expensive? Sure. But do they offer retailers the opportunity to once again make money hand over fist by offering a superior entertainment experience? You bet!