This past January, Las Vegas was again taken over by CES. It’s a show that’s grown to include every conceivable facet of electronics and consumer technology. It is spread over many locations and there is plenty to see in each spot. For those attendees from the automotive aftermarket, it’s especially beneficial to see both OEM and aftermarket companies displaying the latest technologies and solutions for aftermarket technicians to integrate with modern vehicles.
The CES Vehicles
CES has always had the distinction of showing some of the latest technologies being offered in vehicles. Over the past few years, that has included some of the OEMs debuting their newest offerings there.
This year, Volkswagen unveiled its BUDD-e two-drive motor electric vehicle that is much like a modernized take on its wildly popular Microbus from the late ’50s through 1967. To call it a minivan would not do it justice. BUDD-e reported a 230-mile range and boasts rapid charging to 80 percent battery life in about 30 minutes. The dashboard and passenger area boast configurable touch screens, gesture and app control of various vehicle functions, as well as many home integration features that share information with smart appliances and home entry doors. Interior and exterior styling are very futuristic, with the generous use of LED lighting and body lines that evoke memories of the classic Microbus. There’s even a solar panel in the roof, for added energy capture.
Another OEM electric vehicle debut was the Chevrolet Bolt EV. GM’s Mary Barra unveiled this at a keynote speech touting an under-$30,000 price (after federal tax credits), coupled with a range of over 200 miles. The Bolt EV features a full host of onboard technologies that integrate with the users’ smartphones so that individual presets can be loaded simply by the proximity of the Bluetooth receiver in the phone. An eight-inch instrument cluster screen and 10.2-inch center screen are completely configurable to show the information the driver wishes to see. Of course, Chevy’s onboard 4G LTE Wi-Fi means users need not tether their phones to the Bolt EV to get outside connectivity. All the modern safety features, like forward collision and blind zone alerts, are available as options. Both BUDD-e and Bolt show what will be coming to our stores.
On the aftermarket side, there were many cool vehicles on display. Alpine showed a 2016 Chevy Silverado with their X110-SLV Restyle in-dash solution. With a 10-inch screen and integration expansion of vehicle functions (such as driving relays to control an air ride system onscreen), this is one of the best in-dash head unit integration examples, as evidenced by the Innovation Award it received. Alpine also had a Jeep Wrangler with a new, simplified version of the Restyle head unit (i09-WRA) featuring Apple CarPlay and a lower entry price than its full-featured Restyle units.
Pioneer Electronics had a very cool hatchback show vehicle that was created by fabricator Rommel Medina in Southern California. It showcased Pioneer subwoofers and amplifiers in a lighted installation with features like pressed metal accent grilles and an acrylic false floor. The fit and finish was one of the best at CES. Up in the dash was one of the new Pioneer NEX head units featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, which was a theme with most head unit manufacturers.
There were many other great cars. Mercedes had a concept vehicle called Concept IAA. Toyota showed their KAIKI and FCV Plus concept vehicles. Kia displayed a new four-door performance luxury concept called Novo. Aftermarket manufacturer Clarion showed its Acura NSX with the much-talked-about Full Digital Sound (FDS) system with dedicated speakers using a built-in LSI chip, processor and app functionality for tablet-based sound adjustment. Cerwin-Vega Mobile had an amazing SSV/UTV outfitted with its latest power sports gear. Audio Control featured a Fiat 500 installed by Andrew Evens of Industry Auto Design. The system featured Audio Control’s DQ-61 processor and new amps.
Aftermarket retailers had plenty to cover at CES, with all the new products and solutions available. Metra showed its InfoLink auto detect interface for Sony and Clarion head units. In addition to traditional integration (SWC, RAP, etc.), this USB-updatable interface allows display of OBD-II and HVAC information, clearing DTCs, and a dedicated 12v, 10a ACC output and other outputs for navigation system uses.
Come for the Networking
Beyond all there is to see at CES, it’s the face-to-face networking opportunities that provide the most value. For retailers and vendors, it’s an important time to get to know one another and go over new products without the in-store distractions. For consultants, technicians and sales professionals, this show provides a single location to see new tech and meet new opportunities. In many ways, these interactions move into conversations about what the year in business will become. Much of that is collaborative, where business relationships are a great tool to keep building the momentum of the aftermarket segment.