12-23-2008, 12:54 PM
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Consumer Electronics Show powers on despite economic brown-out
At the last Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner gave a keynote address (“Detroit Invades Las Vegas,” AW, Jan. 21), following techno übergeek Bill Gates. It was the first time an auto executive had ever so addressed CES. Wagoner even took the opportunity to unveil a prototype, the Cadillac Provoq, another CES first. Things were looking up for American carmakers.
For the upcoming show--which runs Jan. 8-11, 2009--Ford CEO Alan Mulally is scheduled to give a keynote address, even though the car industry is in full survival mode. The carmaker presence at this show is a strong reminder of how much the economy depends on the auto industry.
Every year at CES, the entire North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center and many displays throughout the million-plus square feet of additional show space are crammed with automotive stuff. It’s a sizable percentage of the total CES exhibitor list. While big-screen televisions and home-entertainment systems are huge draws every year, automotive electronics are mighty big, too. If the Detroit Three were to go under, they would take an awful lot of electronics manufacturers and suppliers with them.
Auto supplier Delphi, usually a big exhibitor at CES, will be absent this year, but competitor Visteon will be on hand. The total number of exhibitors will hold steady at 2,700, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, which produces the show.
While the Detroit Three might not have as big a presence this time around, Hyundai and Kia will be at the show for the first time. The Korean companies will use the HKS Genesis Coupe, a Genesis sedan and a Borrego sport-utility vehicle to highlight their new association with Microsoft’s Automotive Business Unit. Microsoft will provide a version of Ford’s Sync and Fiat’s Blue&Me to some Hyundais and Kias in 2010.
The usual phalanx of navigation devices will be present. The CEA predicts a 30
percent increase in holiday sales of navi-gation units, one car-related bright spot. Alpine plans to show its new IVA-W203/ P1 audio-video-navigation system, which provides everything but the electronic kitchen sink for a sock-it-to-me $1,200.
Goodyear-branded navigation units revealed at the 2008 show finally went on sale last month and will appear at CES.
The biggest breakthrough in car-audio entertainment this year will be Internet radio stations played through the car stereo. A new company, miRoamer, will announce a partnership with Blaupunkt, a specialist in car multimedia, to give drivers access to the world’s largest and most diverse selection of Internet radio content. You could listen to Radio Free Detroit in Los Angeles!
HD Radio will tout the rapid progress it has made in its three years on the market. In 2005, there was only one HD Radio receiver available, and it cost more than $500. Today, there are more than 80 of them, some priced as low as $79. HD Radio is now available from 11 automakers, picking up clear signals from almost 2,000 stations.
Gracenote will show a program that lets music fans have access to millions of tracks and unlimited downloads to any connected device, including PCs, mobile devices and home equipment. Oh, yeah, and cars.
Get our complete download on CES after the show at autoweek.com.