Stolen vehicle recovery (SVR) suppliers are integrating smartphone and Internet access with remote vehicle control and tracking applications rapidly changing the value proposition for dealers and consumers. The resulting solutions are finding increasing traction as both dealer and port installs and raising the interest of OEMs in offering own-branded SVR solutions.
Leading the way in this ongoing integration effort is Guidepoint Systems which has been putting pressure on market leader LoJack. Guidepoint now offers a smartphone integration with remote vehicle control functionality and an Internet portal for determining vehicle location and status – functions which are also supported by the company’s call center.
Any confusion as to whether Guidepoint has LoJack in its cross hairs should be removed by the pricing and positioning of Guidepoint’s dealer offer. While LoJack is normally offered at $695 for the basic theft prevention package with a $395 bump for its early warning solution and another $295 for its $5K warranty proposition; Guidepoint has a $795 basic stolen vehicle recovery package with a $395 early theft alert and an additional $5K theft protection plan for $99.
Guidepoint’s focus is the automobile dealer channel, but the company has begun closing some direct relationships with OEMs. Competitor Cimble, which showed its products at the Telematics Update event last week, is also pursuing OEM relationships for dealer and port installs.
Cimble claims to have port and dealer install programs in the works with Honda, BMW, Subaru and Toyota (for two regions). Mopar is thought to have a similar product offering in the works from an unnamed supplier, due later this year. And Ford offers SmartAlert from Skyway Systems (acquired several years ago by Innelec) as an official licensed Ford product.
The importance of these developments is that it shows OEMs seeking to take more control of a valuable piece of dealer aftermarket business. Stolen vehicle recovery has long been the captive realm of LoJack and its RF solution – to the consternation of OEM accessory managers.
The arrival of telematics systems with their own stolen vehicle recovery capabilities at OnStar, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and, most recently, Toyota Motor Sales in the U.S., have had only a modest impact on LoJack’s dealer business. OnStar probably had the greatest influence with its vehicle slowdown enhancement. But the new branded accessory solutions, integrating both GPS and cellular technology, may be beginning to get LoJack’s attention.
LoJack still has the advantage of being built around stealthy RF technology, which is better able to penetrate a wider range of barriers, and is supported by the installation of tracking equipment by cooperative police forces in 28 states – most recently joined by Utah. But LoJack has been reporting consecutive quarters with losses, including $5.6M in its first quarter reported last month.
LoJack’s weaknesses include its inability to offer universal geographic coverage and the lack of a relationship with OEMs. Since OEMs have not been given a “cut” of LoJack’s business, the company has long been seen as an interloper.
Perhaps a greater shortcoming of LoJack is its business model. LoJack is a set it and forget it solution. After the initial upfront payment and installation there is no further interaction with the customer. This lack of interaction means there is a limited upsell opportunity.
Worse even than this business model, though, is the fact that most LoJack systems are sold as a basic package which requires the customer to report the stolen vehicle to LoJack. (LoJack does offer a step-up keyfob-based service which provides an early warning to the customer if the vehicle is moved without the keyfob.)
In contrast, GPS-based products not only provide vehicle locator functionality they also allow, in the case of Guidepoint, for a pro-active call to the customer if the vehicle is moved, violates a geo-fence or if the wireless connection to the vehicle is lost. Guidepoint can then notify the police and the vehicle can be located by Guidepoint.
The added functionality afforded by GPS technology means the new OEM-branded offerings allow more flexible pricing and marketing models. Guidepoint is perhaps the most unusual market player in maintaining its own call centers and offering services ranging from roadside assistance and concierge support to the ability to disable a vehicle if it is stolen.
Interestingly, Guidepoint also offers a member rewards program and has a relationship with Liberty Mutual and is also active in the buy-here pay-here market for customers with compromised credit. Guidepoint also has a cooperation in aftermarket navigation systems with Rosen Entertainment integrating Guidepoint SVR and concierge functionality via an on-screen button.
Guidepoint privately refers to its offering as “OnStar on steroids,” but the company does not offer automatic crash notification functionality because of liability concerns. The key to the Guidepoint business model is the initial call the customer makes to Guidepoint upon activating the service. Guidepoint call center responders are trained to introduce new customers to the complete range of available service enhancements.
The power of the integration of smartphone and Internet interfaces has not been lost on companies in the 12V aftermarket channel, such as CompuStar and Auto Page. Later this year, CompuStar (by Firstech) will introduce an iPhone app which works with the company’s DroneMobile iPhone app/module for remote starting, tracking and security.
According to a report in CEOutlook (http://ceoutlook.com) the CompuStar solution works with remote starters from multiple companies and allows users to lock and unlock the car, release the trunk, remote start the vehicle, control sliding doors and heated seats, track the car and control the security system from their phone.
Users can also view the car’s battery voltage, temperature and alarm status and can set geo-fenced areas. CEOutlook says the DroneMobile DR-1000 will be available in two packages: $549.99 suggested list including basic installation or a $349 package available without the remote starter. Users get one year of basic service. GPS tracking requires a premium service plan. Auto Page is another company that has taken the iPhone plunge.
As for LoJack, the company reported in Q1 that “penetration rates are consistent with those of the fourth quarter of 2009, demonstrating that our business has not been negatively impacted by any competing technology.” LoJack says its U.S. unit volumes increased each month of the first quarter with March delivering a double-digit increase. .
In the words of one LoJack executive on the company’s earnings call: “As the U.S. auto market recovers, we expect that our installations will increase in a manner that is consistent with the broader domestic auto market trends. We are cautiously optimistic about the broader U.S. auto market based on recent projections that indicate new vehicle sales may exceed prior expectations of 11 to 11.5 million units.”
LoJack clearly anticipates healthy business as usual, but even in an environment where theft rates are on the rise, the company may be challenged by the growing influx of GPS/cellular-based solutions - especially as car makers seek to take back the SVR business. The added enhancement of smartphone integration and remote functionality may ultimately force the company to reconsider its RF-only proposition.
http://bit.ly/aIm4vK - Global Automotive OE Telematics Market 2008-2016 - Joanne Blight