JL Audio Inc. has entered into an exclusive, long-term agreement to license the marine division of the Clarion brand for the United States, Canada and key international marine audio markets. Terms were not disclosed.
Effective Oct. 1, JL Audio will assume responsibility for the sales, support, marketing and future product development of Clarion-branded marine audio products in the United States and Canada.
Key international marine markets will follow soon thereafter, including Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and select Caribbean, Central and South American markets. No other international markets are included in the agreement.
“We’re very flattered by Clarion’s faith in us,” JL Audio president Andy Oxenhorn told Trade Only Today. “We’re excited to be doing this, we’re not going to let them down and make this quite a viable enterprise. We’re very committed to the marine space.”
The California-based marine division of Clarion sought out a partnership when it could no longer focus its full attention on the marine segment because it was focused on its core automotive business, said Clarion Corp. America president Chris Honma.
“Recently the auto electronics industry is really changing,” Honma told Trade Only Today. “Life cycles are shorter, and it’s caused our company to focus most of our time on our core business. But that being said, Clarion really believes the marine business is important and actually possesses great potential. Clarion started in marine audio in 1990s as really the first player in the space, but lately we’ve felt guilty because we could not continue to devote our full attention to the marine business.”
Clarion, one of the largest automotive audio suppliers in the world, is a subsidiary of Japan-based Clarion Co. Ltd. Clarion’s automotive retail products, OEM technologies and products, and other businesses remain under Clarion’s control and management.
The only company that stood out as a potential partner was JL Audio, said Honma, in part because of each company’s focus on customer service and relationships with boatbuilders, retailers, and end users.
JL Audio partners with 76 boatbuilders currently, and Oxenhorn believes the partnership will help grow that number.
“This partnership with Clarion creates a lot of channels to expand into,” Oxenhorn said. “It gives us the opportunity to work with more boatbuilders at a variety of price points, without creating conflict, under the Clarion brand.”
JL Audio has been approached by potential partners in the past but has declined, said JL Audio marketing vice president Manville Smith. But in this case, “both companies are leaders in designing products that stand up to the realities of the marine saltwater environment,” Smith said.
Clarion replicates prolonged UV exposure, simulates the humid saltwater environment and rigorously tests its marine receivers, speakers and amplifiers for thermal shock to imitate quick changes in temperature, the companies said in a joint statement.
JL Audio, which is based in Florida, will continue operation of Clarion’s marine office in California, and will bring on some technical sales, engineering and sourcing staff to complement its existing team, said Oxenhorn.
“We’ll continue as a separate entity, and treated as a separate brand and product grouping under JL Audio,” said Honma. “They’ll benefit from all our resources. There will be a nice synergistic relationship there, but it won’t be set up as its own separate company.”
The partnership will benefit JL Audio in terms of sourcing and engineering, said Smith.
Both product lines will remain the same in the short term, said Oxenhorn.
All declined to give more specific terms of the licensing agreement, but Oxenhorn reiterated that it is a very long-term agreement.
“For both our sakes,” said Oxenhorn. “Clarion wants a commitment from us to do it the right way, and to do it the right way, we have to have a long-term plan. JL Audio is a very patient company, and we wouldn’t enter into this unless we had a far horizon to work with. We want to turn the business into something that we’ll be happy with and Clarion will be happy with. We’ll be investing heavily in the brand.”
OEM partners of both brands have reacted positively to the news. “We have had some conversations with OEMs, and they went extremely well,” said Oxenhorn. “They were pleased that JL Audio was chosen.”