(Credit: Automotive News)
Car Tech: Suppliers of navigation systems and their automaker customers are facing a tough new competitor. And the competitor is, literally, in their pocket.
That pesky device stuck to the windshield continues to cause trouble, too.
According to a J.D. Power and Associates study, 60 percent of people with a factory-installed navigation system also own either a portable device or a smartphone with a navigation system. In both cases, most consumers prefer to use the installed navigation system.
But one in four, given a choice, ignores the installed system–and that might spell trouble for the future.
Thirty-six percent of survey respondents had both a portable navigation device–such as those from TomTom International and Garmin–and a system installed in their vehicle. And 28 percent of consumers with both say they prefer to get directions from the portable device.
The pattern is similar for users of smartphones: twenty-four percent of respondents have them, and 28 percent of those with both a smartphone and an installed system say they prefer to use the phone.
The October survey of 17,517 drivers suggests no immediate serious trouble for suppliers that provide navigation systems. The list includes Clarion, Denso, Alpine Electronics, Pioneer, Harman International Industries, Hyundai Mobis, and Delphi Automotive.
But they shouldn’t be complacent, said Mike Marshall, director of automotive emerging technologies at J.D. Power. “It’s important that suppliers take into account some of the features that make these systems preferable,” Marshall said.
Those features include ease of use and more frequent updates for maps and points of interest.
Also, “Prices of factory-installed navigation systems need to stay competitive,” Marshall said.
Clarion appears to be meeting the challenge. The Cypress, Calif., unit of the Tokyo company partnered with Ford Motor to create navigation systems for the automaker’s vehicles. Several of those models led the industry in the Power study, which asked consumers to rate factory-installed navigation systems.
The top four systems in the survey were the ones in the Ford Fusion, Flex and Taurus and the Lincoln MKS. Clarion supplied all of them.
Clarion supplied 13 of the 50 vehicles with navigation systems that ranked better than the industry average. Denso and Harman, each had 11 vehicles in the top 50.
Marshall said that one of the factors in Clarion’s success is its partnership with Ford.
“Clarion also supplies the Nissan Infiniti vehicles, which aren’t scoring as high as the Ford vehicles but they are still doing well,” he said. “But it’s that true partnership that really brings it home, and it’s not one supplier all by itself.”
NaviGadget: Clarion NX509 is a new addition to Clarion’s in car entertainment line-up. NX509 is a 2-DIN system that has built-in navigation and supports media from CDs, DVDs, and USB sticks and can read MP3 and WMA formats.
It has a 7″ touch screen LCD monitor however also does 2 zone entertainment. There’s a USB port in the back for iPod Control in addition to being ready for XM Satellite Mini Tuner.
You can also soup up your Clarion NX509 with optional additions such as the steering wheel remote, bluetooth connectivity, and more.
Slashgear: Clarion have been showing a new prototype of their MiND UMPC and GPS navigation device at Computex, complete with a fresh case design and various color options.
The so-called “Mobile Internet Navigation Device” is based on a 5.2-inch WVGA 800 x 480 touchscreen and, back in January at least, Intel’s Menlow platform (comprising the Silverthorne processor and Poulsbo chipset). Functionality includes internet and messaging, GPS and Office access, shortcuts to YouTube and MySpace, and multimedia.
Based on Linux, the OS looks relatively finger-friendly but Clarion were still demonstrating it with a stylus. Connectivity includes WiFi and Bluetooth. It’s uncertain whether the hardware has changed from the previous versions, or if the only difference is in the new – and, to my eyes, less attractive – case shape.
Clarion will launch the MiND in the US later on this year, and in Europe in 2009. They also intend a “Pro” version, which will integrate 3G WWAN for mobile internet access.
easier: Clarion’s latest portable navigation units are the first to map buildings, landmarks and elevation changes in 3D, and combined with comprehensive lane information and turn-by-turn voice prompts (text to speech), deliver the clearest, most convenient route advice yet.
The MAP780 (Europe) and MAP680 (UK & Ireland) use two separate high-performance programmes to draw buildings in the foreground and background. Buildings close to the driver appear see-through as you approach them, so as not to obstruct the view of the next junction, whilst buildings further away are textured and solid, making them lifelike and easily recognisable as reference points while driving.
Both PND’s utilise digital elevation model data to draw height and depth features, with hills and mountains rendered in 3D while you drive, to create the most realistic view, at all levels of zoom. Elevation information is also applied to the road network for rendering of shadows, to display roads and bridges at their correct height for a greater clarity of route guidance.
Twice: Five leading car stereo suppliers met yesterday in what was termed an unprecedented spirit of cooperation, to plan an industry summit to raise consumer awareness about autosound.The summit, to be held in Dallas, July 16-17 was first suggested by Pioneer during International CES in January. Last week, Pioneer, Alpine, Kenwood, Clarion, and Directed met in person and by conference call to form a steering committee for the summit. The mission of the summit is to take action against a 30 percent drop in awareness for aftermarket car audio over the past five years.
Organizer of the meeting and the summit, Greg Sabatino, chairman of Sabatino Day Williamson Group, an advertising agency/seminar planning group, said the meeting was more than cooperative. “It amazed everybody. We had Pioneer and Alpine in the same room. The meeting went for an hour and 45 minutes without breaks. First, it’s very difficult to even get competitors like that together.”
He said only one subject was discussed, which was awareness. “Everyone acknowledged that hard research from more than one source has shown that awareness of the 12 volt aftermarket has dropped precipitously.”
Audiojunkies: How many mobile audio/video manufacturers can claim that their products are used in space? Well now Clarion can as their RX935VD in-dash multimedia center and VCZ625 6-disc DVD changer have passed NASA’s rigorous testing for use on the International Space Station.
Both units are specially configured and modified for in-space use according to SoundDomain, and the units are housed in a special rack module. The units are awaiting their trip to the ISS in Russia right now.
Akihabaranews: Clarion decided to put on sale a waterproof protection for the DrivTrax GPS.
Also included is a speaker and the possibility to use AA batteries, good for 11 hours of autonomy so you’ll spend more time at the gas station than changing your GPS batteries!
A nice product with a decent price, set around 125€.
SFGate: Makers of car stereos have sophisticated ways to let you play iPod library on the road
Cnet rating: 8.6 out of 10 (excellent; editors’ choice)
The good: Elegant and feature-packed system with a range of useful and intuitive media playback features.
The bad: Hard buttons on far side of driver; incomplete source menu.
The price: €475
For those considering an in-car multimedia system, the Clarion MAX675VD is a compelling option. With most of the advanced digital media playback features available, including a great iPod interface, plus customization options and large selection of add-on devices, the MAX675VD is a user-friendly, all-in-one system. It makes use of a virtual version of the iPod wheel interface when a player is connected. Disc-based video formats supported include DVD and VCD.
Engadget: Here is Clarion’s new “semiconductor car stereo”; an in-car stereo with “no moving parts,” which means you won’t find an optical drive or HDD in here.
The single-DIN FB275BT instead receives music care of the SD slot (unfortunately, no SDHC support was mentioned) behind the front white panel or over Bluetooth, and pumps out the tunes with its 50-watt x 4 internal amplifier.
Aside from also boasting handsfree connectivity with your mobile, it features an FM tuner (no AM), two-line LCD display, rear auxiliary input for your DAP of choice, two-channel RCA output, and a modest assortment of equalizer / bass boost presets.
The faceplate boasts eight large, curved buttons as a part of Clarion’s HMI (Human Machine Interface), which reportedly seeks to “minimizes the number of buttons while maximizing functionality,” and plenty of indirect lighting. Retail is around €190.
Bloomberg: Hitachi, Japan’s biggest electronics maker, will pay 55.7 billion yen (around €371 million) for a majority stake in car audio and navigation maker Clarion, helping boost their auto-related sales sixfold by 2011.
The company, which is already Clarion’s largest shareholder with a 14.4% stake, plans to buy more than half of the stock, Hitachi has said today in a statement.
Hitachi, which started a development venture with Clarion in December 2000, is targeting sales of 290 billion yen (€1.9 billion) at its car information systems unit by the year ending March 2011.
Tokyo-based Clarion last month slashed its profit forecast because of price declines and lower overseas sales of its car navigation systems.
Hitachi’s sales from car navigation equipment were 44.4 billion yen last year, about a quarter of Clarion’s 184.1 billion yen revenue. Hitachi bought its initial Clarion stake in 2004.
“They should have done this when they bought the minority stake two years ago and the indecision is typical of Hitachi management,” said Takeo Miyamoto, a Tokyo-based analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets.
Clarion last month forecast net income will drop 78 percent to 1.3 billion yen, instead of an earlier projection for 3 billion yen, as sales rise 1 percent to 186 billion yen in the year ending March 2007.
The alliance with Hitachi would help Clarion speed up development, cost cuts and give the company the scale necessary to compete globally, Clarion President Tatsuhiko Izumi said today at the joint Tokyo press briefing.
“Carmakers are trying to squeeze in more and more devices,” said John Yang, an analyst at Standard & Poor’s Equity Research in Tokyo. “It used to be just a DVD player, now it’s a car navi with a hard disk.”