Going Mobile: Pioneer Kills Premier Brand
Pioneer Electronics will discontinue its Premier line of mobile electronics this month, saying it was becoming harder to justify the features and marketing of a premium line from its Pioneer-branded line of mobile products. Not all dealers agree with the move.
Pioneer launched the Premier line about 20 years ago to offer specialty dealers a different line than the company was supplying the big-box stores. Over the last several years, though, advancements in technology, lower costs and consumer demand have made it more difficult to differentiate the Premier from the regular lines, said Ted Cardenas, director of marketing for Pioneer's Mobile Entertainment Business Group.
As an example, Cardenas compared a Premier CD player with a Pioneer model, both released this year. The Premier unit was $20 more than the Pioneer deck, included a two-year warranty as opposed to a one-year warranty, came with an iPod connector cable and had a black volume knob instead of the silver knob of the Pioneer unit. "When we originally launched the Premier products, they were very much separate," he said, adding that Pioneer has about 375 authorized Premier accounts. "But the changes in technology have allowed us to add so many features at lower prices to the Pioneer brand that the differences became less." But those differences, no matter how small, are what the independent dealers need to help them stand out in an increasingly competitive market, said Barry Vogel, president of the Mobile Enhancement Retailers Association and owner of The Ultimate Edge, a mobile electronics retailer and custom installer in Oswego, N.Y. "If a manufacturer puts out the exact same product in terms of features, lets me sell it with an extended warranty and allows me to compete within $10 or $20, we can get the customer to spend a little more," he said. "The consumer would like to feel special about what they perceive as a better product and a higher level of service." Beyond features and price, the consumers' increased use of the Internet as a product search and research tool also made it harder to separately market the two brands. "What has changed is how we communicated the message and how consumers found out about the products," Cardenas said.