Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cutting Edge Technology for Electronic Auto Accessories

If Henry Ford were alive today, his jaw might very well drop to the floor.
Though Ford's cars were innovative for the time, the automaker probably never could have imagined that the company that bears his name would one day ink a deal with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) for hands-free Bluetooth technology in-vehicle operating systems. Ten years from now, it may be difficult to find a vehicle without a diverse array of telematics features.

However, not all of tomorrow's digital options will revolve around entertainment. Indeed, there is vast market for in-car technologies that provide information rather than amusement: radar detectors, diagnostic tools and voice-based search and control products.
Part 1 of this series on cool auto accessories looks at hands-free and portable entertainment devices for those long car commutes. This installment looks at other cutting edge in-car accessories that are expected to gain momentum in 2007 and beyond.
Monitoring the Roads
Remember those old-fashioned radar detectors? Sometimes they worked. Sometimes they didn't. You may even have the speeding ticket to prove it.
K40 Electronics is vying to eliminate tickets forever with its line of high-tech radar detectors and laser diffusers that use -- you guessed it -- Bluetooth technology to wirelessly connect various modules in their radar and laser defense systems.
K40's Calibre RD850 promises total speeding ticket protection in a device priced at US$299. K40's Laser Defuser, which also retails for $299, deactivates the laser light signal transmitted to police.
Remote Control Panel
Forget simple keyless entry. Connect2Car is revving up the concept with its integrated automotive electronic solutions. Its multifunction controller offers a central software control panel on a mobile device. The company's MFC V2, for example, is a $500 smart device that comes equipped with Bluetooth technology to allow users to remotely manage alarm systems, electric windows, trunk releases, actuators and hydraulics.
"Connect2Car products can even be programmed to automatically disarm the alarm, unlock and open the doors and make the vehicle ready for push-button starting whenever the owner approaches with their Bluetooth phone. As only one phone can be synched with the Connect-2-Car device, it is completely secure," John Haynes, lead technology buyer for Al & Ed's Autosound, told TechNewsWorld.
Checking on Auto Health
Beyond the entertainment-oriented auto accessories, diagnostic technology is making its way into the glove box. CarMD displayed its handheld tester at CES last week. Drivers can use the tester to monitor and maintain the health of the car as long as it's a 1996 or newer model.
Here's how it works: Red, yellow and green indicator lights offer insights into the vehicle's performance. Green indicates that all systems are go, yellow advises you to proceed with caution, and red warns you to consult a mechanic.
CarMD can even read your vehicle's computer and upload that information to your PC via the CarMD Web site. You can run a diagnostic report and get an idea of what's wrong and how much it might cost you. CarMD retails for $89.99.
Vehicle Tracking to Go
One of the next big waves in car technology will relate to vehicle tracking devices, Tony Frangiosa, president and CEO of MobileToys, told TechNewsWorld. A transceiver installs in the vehicle and uses both GPS and cellular technology to identify where the vehicle is, which users can access via a Web site. The transceiver can also display information about the car on a Web site, such as how fast it is driving and where it has been over the last few hours.
"Up until recently, this technology has been used primarily for fleet companies, but soon consumers will be able to get a unit installed for less than $150, pay a monthly service fee for $10, and any parent can monitor how fast and where their kids are driving, get a phone call if they travel outside a designated area, or in an emergency if the airbags are deployed," Frangiosa said.
Speaking of Car Technology
Voicebox Technologies has developed a conversational voice-based search and control technology for the automotive market. The device understands a user's intention based on the context of the request rather than recognizing only words.
VoiceBox has established partnerships with XM Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: XMSR) , Toyota, Johnson Controls, InfoSpace (Nasdaq: INSP) , IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) , but its concept has not hit the mainstream.
VoiceBox, using IBM's Embedded ViaVoice technology, is more in line with traditional telematics solutions like OnStar. VoiceBox lets the driver control the radio and personal navigation devices by speaking.

Source: http://www.technewsworld.com/story/55168.html

Monday, February 26, 2007

Why is it always AFTERmarket?

Automakers tend to cater to the vast majority of car buyers. The typical car buyer is middle class, practical, and needs reliable and confortable transportation for them and their family. True auto enthusiasts are NOT your typical car buyers. So how do we get what we need out of our vehicles?

Where there is demand, there is an answer. The auto industry has found that there are millions of auto enthusiast out there with varying degrees of obsession. Some are into the electronics, some into the speed, and some into the appearance. And others of us can't get enough of all of the above. Anything that makes my car more unique and more personal is a plus for me. Independant companies began creating upgrades and add on options for the most popular vehicles. These upgrades became so popular, that they started offering almost all the options for just about very car application available. These parts are refered to as the "after" market.

Aftermarket auto parts and accessories are created specifically for a certain vehicle, or as a universal add on such as a spoiler. They can range from wheels and tires, body kits, lighting accents, dash trim kits, performance upgrades, and vertical lambo door conversion kits. There is almost a limitless option of accessories out there.

The options are vast, but unfortunately, so is the quality. You will find a wide scale of prices when searching for auto accessories, and the quality will usually reflect the price. For example, if you are searching for an air intake to put on your car, you can find them ranging from $30 to over $300. You will have to do some research to figure out which ones to buy, so look into the craftsmanship like what materials are used and how it is put together, and the performance such as dyno test runs and experienced users. Read reviews as well. Reviews are a great source for getting the consumer pulse on a particular product.

One thing that may be lacking in the aftermarket is "customer service." I use the term customer service because this is the one the customers are using to describe the "lack" of service they are receiving. Aftermarket parts are "usually" not kept in stock and have to be shipped from a distributor warehouse. This can make the customer feel like the transaction takes longer than it should. And when an item is on backorder, watch out! It could take 2 weeks or more to get the right part. Many times inventories aren't accurate enough to catch a backorder before the actual order is placed. Is there a solution to the madness?

Maybe. Maybe not. Ebay has become one of the largest and fastest growing markets for auto parts and accessories. Many of the items listed are ones that are "in inventory" and can create a faster transaction for the customer. Other times the items listed in eBay are an extension of a website, which is not "on hand" inventory. A lot of negative feedback can result from slow transaction time, and negative feedback results in lost customers. So how can consumers and suppliers get on the same page? Real time inventory is difficult or impossible to do because in most cases, a dealer is not the sole reseller of a product line. With other dealers buying from the same manufacturers, it's very difficult to foresee items that are placed on backorder before they happen.

One thing that many resellers are doing is offering a live help center for its customers. They can either call and talk to a representative, or exchange messages through an IM system. This will allow resellers to check product availablitiy before the sale and estimate more accurately a shipping date and arrival date, as well as inform the customer of any backordered items.

Internet sales have long been a hands off environment for customer service, and there is a long way to go before it is fully understood how to provide a good shopping experience. The benefits of lower prices and loads of options may make up for the lack of personal attention for many. Every reseller is "committed to customer satisfaction" but a lot of the factors that influence that may be out of their control.

Majestic Modifications is hoping to bridge the gap between the customers and the products. We are in phase one of our project, which is to create a dynamic and personal shopping experience. We are making strides to create an enjoyable online experience, and for our customers to get the most updated information at the time of order. We will be showcasing the updates over the next few weeks. In the meantime, stay TUNED!