May 3, 2010: The industry’s iCruisin’

With more than 275 million cell phone users in the United States, nearly every consumer who walks into a powersports dealership is a potential buyer for a Bluetooth device.
Advancements in Bluetooth technology have made the devices more than just a hands-free cell phone tool. The devices’ ability to connect with GPS units, iPods, radio and other riders make it appealing to more than just the traditional target audience of touring and cruiser riders.
Regardless of exactly who’s buying the technology, the Bluetooth manufacturers agree they’ve just scratched the surface with the technology and its sales potential.

Target audience
There’s some variance between the Bluetooth manufacturers’ main target audiences.
The traditional Bluetooth market has been touring riders, and that segment remains the main buyer for Midland Radio, says Ron Dowd, national sales manager for the company’s Data/Bluetooth division.
“When I started I thought the younger generation would have gravitated toward it more just because of the technology,” he said. “I see more guys in the 39-52 age group. We see the demographics changing. We’re hitting that market where people can’t be away from the phone — doctors, lawyers, sales guys. They have to be connected all the time. That’s their lifeline.”
Cardo Systems, another Bluetooth product manufacturer, tends to look at its target audience on a broader scale.
“The headset is relevant to all motorcycle riders,” said Kathryn Rhodes, director of marketing for Cardo. “Included in our major motorcycle segments are touring, sport bikes and cruisers. The G4 has been designed specifically for rider-to-rider intercom talk, so we see users that want to talk to their separate riding buddies or their passengers while riding.”
VCAN, a helmet and Bluetooth manufacturer, views its target audience differently than the other manufacturers. Phil Ammendolia, director of sales at VCAN, says the company’s main target is the commuter, which is also where the company views the biggest growth opportunity.
“We expect to see more and more people turn to motorcycles as a transportation alternative,” he said. “They’re more likely to do that if they’re able to stay warm, dry and in touch. We help them stay in touch. They can listen to music, call the office, etc.”
The next largest target for VCAN is the touring rider. “Right now it’s the most popular among touring riders because they’re already used to communication devices,” Ammendolia added. “They’re already used to this kind of technology.
“Finally, we see a pretty good opportunity in the sport bike crowd. That young group has been raised on technology and is wide open for us. They’re a really good potential market.”

Future of Bluetooth
As the technology advances, Dowd believes the number of riders motorcyclists will be able to communicate with will increase as well as the amount of applications available.
“There’s some stuff on the horizon where you can add two riders and two passengers to have four (communicators),” he said. “We’re working on technology that will allow four-five different riders, so five different bikes can talk at the same time.”
Currently Midland Radio is planning to debut its BT3 in the fall, which also will have more capabilities. But Midland isn’t the only Bluetooth manufacturer pushing forward.
“We’re coming out with a unit that’s a mobile device and clips onto the helmet,” Ammendolia said of VCAN. “We’ll be offering the BLINC 3 version in a portable unit. They should be in stores in 90 days.”
The devices have technologically improved from the clarity of sound to the number of applications on smartphones, and are expected to continue to improve.
“As far as technology goes, we really believe we’re just barely scratching the surface as far as what the potentials are,” said Ammendolia. “In the auto industry there was a time when AM/FM radio was an option. In a few years, we see Bluetooth reaching the point where people will expect it’s a part of the helmet.”

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