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Sat, Dec 25, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Clarion to market iPod-compatible car audio system

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Clarion Co will begin selling a car audio and video system in Japan next year that's compatible with Apple Inc's iPod portable music player.

"People have asked why the iPod can't be used in car systems, and from that perspective there is plenty of interest," Tatsuhiko Izumi, president of Tokyo-based Clarion, said in a television interview.

"This will not only help our profitability, but also lead to higher brand recognition," Izumi said.

Clarion earlier this month said it will release an iPod-compatible car DVD player in the US in January. Users can connect an iPod to the system and select songs and artists by touching the 17cm monitor.

Clarion, whose shares have risen almost a quarter this year, is spending more on branding as it faces increasing competition from Kenwood Corp, Pioneer Corp and other manufacturers of car-electronics equipment.

The company expects net income to drop by 37 percent to ?4 billion (US$38.6 million) in the fiscal year ending March 31, because of increased advertising costs. It expects sales to rise 1.8 percent to ?172 billion.

"Business this year has been good, and we're likely to meet our goals, barring any special reason like currency fluctuations," Izumi said.

Clarion will introduce the iPod-compatible car equipment in Europe by the middle of next year and also plans to manufacture the parts for carmakers on an original equipment manufacturer basis, he said.

Apple declined to comment on the deal because it does not have a business alliance with Clarion for the product.

"Many companies are making peripheral products for the iPod on their own accord, so we can't comment on just this particular item," said Takashi Takebayashi, an Apple spokesman based in Tokyo.

Other companies making accessories for the iPod include fashion designers LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA and Prada Holding NV, which offer carrying cases, and speaker maker Bose Corp.

Apple's official business alliances include tie-ups with German automaker Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and mobile phone maker Motorola Inc.

Apple and BMW in June said they're developing a device that will let users listen to songs from their iPod music players through the radios of BMWs and Minis.

Apple and Motorola, the world's second-largest mobile-phone maker, in July said they will make a phone that can download songs personal computer users have purchased from Apple's iTunes music store.

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