Adult Doug: So, you are turning 16. Once you get a car, what is the first thing you want to do?
15 year old Doug: I want a huge stereo system!
When I was in high school, a loud stereo and a trunk full of subwoofers were envy of kids across the social spectrum. It was the cool thing to do. What had been a thing only seen in music videos had started to spill into high schools everywhere. I don’t know when it bit me, but I caught the bug, hard. In fact, I had an Alpine CD player on layaway even before I had a car.
While working my minimum wage job, I slowly built my system. Paycheck by paycheck, I chipped away at it. I always had something new on layaway. I can say, without reservation, I had the loudest, best sounding 1986 Ford Taurus around!
Here is a gem of a video from the IASCA Finals in 1994. Erik and I both happened to be at this same event as wide eyes teens, Be warned, this video contains many mullets.
Well, as I was putting my idea of a perfect stereo system together, my best friend down the street was by my side doing the exact same thing. He was hooked just as I was. His story is a quite different from mine though. What had been fun hobby for me, turned into a full-fledged obsession for him. So much so that he made a career out of it. While I may have different priorities now, I still love the technology and have seen the industry change dramatically in the past few decades. I decided to take an in depth look and sit down with Erik to see how he industry has evolved.
Erik Ervin is the owner of Vaughan’s Mobile Electronics in Arlington, Tx. They specialize in everything from window tint to a full system build out. He has been in the industry for over 20 year.
Doug- Erik, tell us about how you got involved in the mobile electronics industry.
Erik- It all started with my buddy, Doug. Younger kid, eager to drive, 14 -15 years old. You were a little bit older and already had you car and was into it. I’d have to say you are the one who turned me onto it.
D- Where did you get your start and what steps or events lead you to owning a shop of your own?
E- Started out at Grand Prairie Audio. Basically a shop rat, gopher. Some sales. Eventually just worked my way up. After about a year, year and a half of doing that, I was doing alarms. That’s kinda what separates a regular radio installer from a full fledged car audio installer. Spent several years working for a bigger corporation. Then finally in 2010, I quit and went out on my own. First couple years were really rough. After the second or third year it got a little easier. It gets a little easier every year.
D- Talking on that, what is the biggest advantage of owning your own shop over working for a larger corporation?
E- Being able to tell somebody no. Being able to turn away things you couldn’t turn away at a big box store. On the flip side of things, you can take in things a big box store wont. It kinda goes both ways.
D- It seems you have the ability to get creative with some of the larger jobs. What are some of the more memorable installs you have done?
E- We did a Tahoe a few years back that was 6 13s on a B pillar wall. In a 2005 Tahoe. That’s one of the loader builds I’ve done recently. We have had several, high end, exotic cars come in for the higher end laser/ radar detectors. Those are always fun. Currently, we are building a shop demo Astro van. The plans are to have 4 15 inch subs with over 20,000 watts of power using all DD Audio equipment.
D- Shifting gears, let’s talk about the industry as a whole, In today’s market, what does the typical customer look like?
E- Typical customer is anywhere from 18 to 40. They usually have a car that’s a few years older that may not have an auxiliary jack or Bluetooth. I get a lot of middle aged guys around my age that now have a good job, they have money and they never got that system in high school or college.
D- How has that changed from when you started in the business?
E- When I started, pretty much every kid had to have something. Not so much anymore. What keeps us afloat, keeps us steady is new cars. Vehicles that don’t come with remote start, backup cameras or backup sensors. That’s the steady stream.
D- What is the current trend in the market?
E- Right now, Apple Carplay, Android Auto. That’s the big thing now. Some of the newer cars are starting to come with them as an option. But that’s something the aftermarket world has driven. So that’s defiantly a big one.
D- How the market changed in the past couple decades?
E- You went from starting with your head unit. So to speak, front to back. Start with the front of the car and end up in the back with your sobs and amps. A lot of newer vehicles, its not worth changing out the factory radio. You may already have factory navigation, factory Android Auto or CarPlay, or the AC controls my be built into the radio. So its just not worth it to change it out. So its more of a trunk forward design.
D- Lets say your average high school aged kid comes in. What is it they are looking for?
E- Usually someway to have their phone or their mobile device play their music. Whether is aux jack or Bluetooth. I’d say the Bluetooth is probably number 1.
D- What about an adult, your middle aged guy. What is their typical request?
E- Its driven a higher demand for those features and manufactures are starting to realize that.
D- What are some other technologies that are commonplace now that didn’t exist when you started?
E- Auxillery jacks. Being able to plug in your phone.
D- Has that made things easier, harder or just different?
E- Just different. Nobody carries a case of CDs around anymore. Everythings on your phone.
D- To sum things up, where do you see the mobile electronics industry as a whole going?
E- Its not gonna go away. There is always gonna be somebody building that custom car. That has to have the layers and greatest. There has always been something that comes along that saved it. In the early 2000s, the iPod saved it because none of these cars were able to play your iPod in them. We had to evolve to where you could do that. There is always going to be room for improvement.
As tastes and trends change, so must the industries that serve them and the mobile electronics industry is no different. Even if you are content with the stereo your vehicle came with, take a spin into your local stereo shop and see whats out there. Just be careful, you might get bit.