Why not buy a cheap radio?

Being active on some forums online, I try to be honest in my appraisals of everything we sell and with other products that are reviewed or promoted in those forums. Recently, I responded to a post in the Silverado-Sierra forum regarding the introduction of a $300 radio designed for GM trucks:

I’ll chime in on this with a little bit of experience: I’ve been a professional car audio installer for 41 years (longer than a lot of you guys have been alive), and have seen EVERYTHING in this business. I try to be honest in my dealings with customers and I firmly believe that telling the truth will ALWAYS be my best policy – it takes way too much work to try and remember the lies you told someone to try and get them to buy something… :- )

I get emails literally every day from manufacturers of these types of units – in fact, just got one yesterday from “Seicane” (https://www.seicane.com/) who have 3645 GPS units listed – 96 units for Chevrolet alone! Now you could say to yourself “Gee, if they make 3645 GPS different GPS units, they must REALLY know what they’re doing!”, and you’d probably be correct on SOME level, but given that the top ten retail brands in the United States don’t make that many different models combined, you also should also ask yourself “how is that possible”? It’s possible because they use the same guts for probably 90% of these units and simply bend metal and make plastic to fit those guts into 3645 different shapes. That doesn’t mean that they’ve done any R&D for each of these applications – as long as it fits, they sell it for that application. You can cut a lot of cost out of a product if you don’t have to employ people to test and tweak your products for every application…

In North America, we have gotten used to products from top-tier manufacturers that are well-built, operate the way we expect, don’t break down, are covered with great warranties, etc. Other markets in the world don’t have the same expectations for their products that we do, and THAT’S where most of the third and fourth tier products are designed to be sold – to people whose expectations aren’t too high. If you are just starting out in car audio and don’t have much experience, some of these units may be just fine for your level of expectation, but if you’ve been doing this for awhile, you tend to run away from products like this.

It costs money to sell stuff in the United States: designers, software engineers, quality control, warehousing, reps, dealers networks, etc. all add cost to a product, but every step helps make the product “ready for the US” and this helps make product that you feel comfortable buying. You don’t find yourself flinching or second-guessing yourself when you press the “buy” button for a Pioneer or Kenwood or Rosen or Advent unit because they’re made by companies that have been in the US for decades and have built up an expectation of quality in what they manufacture, and you know that IF you have a problem, you can get it solved quickly, because these companies have dealers that are dedicated to the product. Having to get all of your warranty problems handled only via email with someone 10 time zones away can be a little frustrating.

Everything that we sell has a US company behind it. Everything we sell has a US warranty. Everything we sell, we install. We don’t put up with crap. For instance: if I sell something to a local car dealer and install it into one of his customer’s vehicles, he expects that product to last as long as the factory part. If it blows up in six months, he doesn’t care that he got it for $300 cheaper, he cares that his customer is screaming at him to fix his radio! We’ve learned this lesson and we will not jeopardize our customers by installing stuff that we could get for 1/2 the price and pass it off as a quality unit – this will ALWAYS come back to bite us in one way or another!

There’s an old saying in the car business – “There’s an ass for every seat”, and this is true for any product sold on the planet. There’s a reason Harbor Freight sells lots of tools and there’s a reason Snap-On sells lots of tools – the difference is that you won’t see a lot of professional mechanics doing their work on your truck using Harbor Freight tools…

TL;DR – You get what you pay for!


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