Wednesday, October 31, 2007

To boldly go

SEMA continues for 2 more days and while my participation is wrapping up, Ken, Ben, Joe, and Jack are staying on to staff the booth and eventually pack it all up. Best of luck, guys, and have a safe trip home.

National Sales Manager Ken Lokey during a lull

I think SEMA had a different feel this year. Part of it might have been the crowds. There are always a lot of people at shows like this - the exhibitors, the attendees, the media, the industry folks, etc. Those folks were all here this week. However, they seemed to be in different places this time around.

Ben Bettelli chats with a visitor

The North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center has been the home of the mobile electronics exhibits for as long as I've been attending this show and it's always been packed. Loads of people in the aisles, booths overflowing, a feeling of electricity and a deep bass hum in the air (and sometimes more than just a hum). This year, there were people in the North Hall but not that same crush. In other areas - the first floor of the South Hall, home of the tire and rim exhibitors - was a madhouse, completely packed and virtually impossible to walk through. The North Hall seemed almost, well, quiet (something of a shock compared to past years).

Tech Support Rep Jack Cohoon walks someone through the TracVision technology

Part of it may have to do with the composition of exhibitors in the North Hall. In past years, every major car audio and speaker firm was in attendance. Aisle upon aisle was filled with tricked-out cars with massive speakers that threatened to launch children and the elderly into orbit if turned up to 11. There were loads of video booths and the concept of connecting your iPod to your car stereo dominated the landscape.

Joe Hendershot, OEM key account manager, assists a guest in the booth

This year, however, things were different. Many of the big audio and speaker manufacturers weren't here or, if they were, they fielded smaller booths. And overall, no more than 50% of the exhibitors in the North Hall were actually mobile electronics firms. Instead, a large section of the hall was given over to the tools of the automotive trade - tire balancing systems, wheel alignment sensors, window tinting and films, frame spinners, painting systems, and more.

Ah, so that's why people were so interested in the grill and faux meat, Chef Jack!

It's something we've observed in our own markets and have commented on in our recent quarterly earnings calls. There are definitely some challenges in the 12V industry and I think the mobile electronics section of the SEMA show is illustrating that.

Your correspondent, mulling over his next obscure pop culture reference. Napoleon Solo? Are you kidding me? What's next? Quotes from the best episodes of "The Wild Wild West"?

On the other hand, the TracVision A7, along with KVH's RV and marine satellite TV systems, continues to draw attention. Even four years after we opened an new market with the revolutionary TracVision A5, there are still visitors to the booth asking, "So does this mean we can get live TV in the car?" We talked to dealers, distributors, limo operators, customizers, and people who just want something cool for their own vehicle. People are looking for live entertainment. They also want live connections to the Internet, something we're aggressively capitalizing on in the marine market. We've proven in the past that we're willing to look ahead and take steps to boldly go where no other company has gone before, and I fully expect that record of innovation and technological leadership will continue.

So thanks for joining us here at SEMA 2007. Buckle up, turn on the TV for the kids in the back seat, drive safely, and live long and prosper.

See, just had to get in one more not-so-obscure pop culture reference, courtesy of the Las Vegas Hilton!

Tool of the trade

And now ladies and germs, it's my pleasure to introduce the true MVP of KVH's trade show success, without which not one us would make it back alive:

You try shaking hands with several hundred people over the course of a few days and see if your hands feel all mountain spring fresh!

Disclaimer: TracVision may be unsuitable for off-road use

OK, it has nothing to do with TracVision but the Toyota off-road proving ground was pretty cool.

So, what's the monthly payment on this car?

The preferences for luxury show cars appear to change from year to year, sort of like consumer preferences in types of Christmas trees. This year, the truly ostentatious choice for show cars is anything by Lamborghini:

But as anyone who read the Palm Beach boat show blog knows, Lambos can't hold a candle to my personal favorite, the new Aston Martins.

Sharp as a butter knife

Things seen and questions overheard from visitors to our booth over the first two days of the show:
  • So are you guys selling grills?
  • Can I buy a hot dog?
  • Y'all make any other kind of grills?
  • I see the big Sirius sign over there but how do you get to them? (Ummmm...walk around to the front of the booth? Is this a trick question?)
  • So how come you don't make these antennas any smaller?
  • Can you get porn on this TV screen?
Alright. I'm stumped. I have no idea what these guys are photographing on the underside of the NFL Sierra.

Yes, these are our potential customers!

For the car that has everything

OK, walking around SEMA you'll see chrome, underbody lighting, video screens, tire balancers, radar detectors and blinders, and so much more. But for those of you who have a secret hankering to be your neighborhood's answer to James Bond or Napoleon Solo (there I go, dating myself again), I offer up these two nominees for our "excessive car customizer accessory of the year" award!

After all, who hasn't wanted to deal with those pesky cars cruising too close to your rear bumper!

Oooo I forgot the best part!

How could I have neglected to highlight the most unique part of the NFL Tailgating vehicle?!

Nothing says comfortable ride like seats made of football leather with an NFL logo and football stitching and laces!