Our thoughts on Clarion USA’s Business Model

In the beginning of Car Audio upgrades, you always started with the head-unit in your system build.  Some would call it, the heart of the system.  Consumers would upgrade from a “tape deck” to a “CD Player” etc., but the landscape has changed.

It was only a few years ago when vehicles had just an “earphone jack” or 3.5mm input, but you would still have to use the device for volume and changing tracks, etc.  This device could be an iPod, cellular phone, and sometimes even a PC.  But fast forward to today, people want total integration.  Integrated display with some sort of screen, volume and track up & down controls via the steering wheel, navigation control, and even voice commands.  These features seem a long way from the early tape decks or CD players, but this is what consumers want.  Here is the direct link of my reference for this blog:




With the departure of Clarion USA from brick and mortar stores and exclusively to sell on Amazon, Crutchfield and Sonic Electronix, what does this mean?

Will people buy a big ticket item that requires roughly $300 or more in installation costs without demonstrating it first?  Let’s explore some real-world feature examples:


I have an iPhone 6, and I want to see how my Google Maps will work on the radio in which I want to purchase, how will “Car Play” work with my phone, how responsive is the unit to inputs for navigation, etc.?


What if I have an iPhone 5 or 4?


I have an Android Samsung Tablet; can I just stream music?  What if I want to stream music from a tablet, and my wife’s phone is also paired for “hands-free calling”?


In a world of software updates, iOS and the open source platform of Android, would a consumer risk buying a $200-1000 item that might work with their device via the internet with no one they can ask for demonstrations or merely get “help”?  And let us not forget, you will need to get it installed by a 3rd party and you cannot give a proper quote on installation until they confirm your vehicle’s features and phone etc.  What if it is “DOA” or dead out of the box, or needs servicing?  Your 3rd party installer will most likely charge you to “R&R” or remove and replace the unit they did not sell the customer.  The reasons go on and on…why not to buy from an online retailer.

Let’s use another example, would you buy a car from a website if you could not see it first?  Would you buy it from a picture on a webpage?  If you can’t see how you fit into the car, how it corners or accelerates, would you purchase it?

In a previous blog post, we talked about Alpine Electronics decision to sell its OEM replacement head units online, in case you missed it the blog:




At least with their business plan, you can go to a store and try it, as a retailer, I would love the chance to have a customer come down to my store, meet my highly trained salespeople, meet my highly trained technicians and use the displays we have designed for the consumer to try their “devices”, to ensure the product I am selling them is absolutely meeting or exceeding my customer’s expectations.  Let’s not forgot, as a retailer, having the opportunity to add speakers, amplifiers, subwoofer or whatever else my store has to offer to the sale is important.  You might say “CanadianCarStereo.com, this way the retailer doesn’t need a showroom; they can just get the labour from the sale!”…but what about the consumer, the people buying the products?  If one customer, has a negative experience by buying the wrong piece, has a unit that has to go to service, does not fit in their car, gets misquoted on installation and now the customer wants to return it, do you really think the customer will want to buy another unit for their car or will they just say “the stock radio is good enough”?  Then the customer does not even go to the brick and mortar store is get the installation done, now they have lost the customer altogether.

So why would Clarion USA make this decision?  Profit, ask yourself if this is good for the industry?  Retailers have made Clarion profit for years…maybe I am old fashion, but does this seem right to you?



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