BEFORE smartphones became common, car audio manufacturers were mainly concerned with how good their hi-fi systems sound and how reliable they are.
In my first role as a sale coordinator I dealt with clients who were yakuza
BEFORE smartphones became common, car audio manufacturers were mainly concerned with how good their hi-fi systems sound and how reliable they are. Users were only worried about the audio quality from their compact discs and MP3 players. Today, you cannot mention car audio without talking about smartphone connectivity. This new in-car entertainment “wave” is what Satoru Kurosaki has to ride to ensure the success of Pioneer Electronics Asiacentre. The 51-year-old, who has been with Pioneer for the past 25 years, has had several overseas postings, notably as the managing director of Pioneer Electronics Thailand (2006-2010) and Pioneer Russia (2010-2013). Kurosaki-san, who started his career at the company as a sales coordinator, talks about the challenges faced by car audio manufacturers, and tells us how he foresees the segment evolving.
You have an economics degree. How did you end up at Pioneer doing sales?
When I joined, I had no idea which department I would be placed in. I was then assigned to be the sales coordinator for home audio-visual products at the company’s Tokuyama branch. What were the challenges you faced then? The three years I spent as a sales coordinator taught me most of what I needed for my career. We all had to do our part to achieve better results. So, apart from sales, I had to deal with complaints and go to customers’ houses to perform troubleshooting. I even did some servicing, too. Sometimes, the customers I dealt with were yakuza! When the dealers, out of fear, hesitated to attend to them, I had to do it instead.
Were these yakuza clients polite?
Not really. They did not tolerate defects and would demand replacements for faulty products. Soon, a new problem arose. These yakuza customers would call me even if there was nothing wrong with their Pioneer products! They said things such as: “My system sounds diff erent. Can you come over and take a look?”
Do you think it was because they liked you?
I’m sure. [Laughs]
What are the challenges you face in your current job?
In Asia, supplying car manufacturers with hi-fi units is big business. It is quite important for Pioneer, because our goal is to be the top car audio brand in the world. That is a huge undertaking. I have had experience in Thailand, but it was mostly in sales. In Singapore, there is also a marketing function to see to.
Kurosakisan’s first car was a Mazda Familia, known outside Japan as the Mazda 323.
What do consumers today want in a car audio system?
Smartphone connectivity has become very important, whereas in the past, reliability and sound quality were what mattered. We have an edge because we know how to make sound work in a car, and we’re also the first car audio manufacturer to off er Apple CarPlay in the aftermarket segment. But I’m not sure how long we can hold this advantage.
How do you see in-car infotainment evolving?
Safety is still the primary concern, but convenience and excitement are the factors that will shape future developments. Currently, smartphone connectivity lets us bring useful information to the driver, such as traffi c updates. Users can also send and reply to messages using voice commands. Eventually, vehicle infotainment will let us access the same information we could get in our home or office
Pioneer has multimedia receivers with Apple CarPlay to cater to iOS users. What about Android users?
Our products can also be used with Android Auto, which enables connectivity with Android devices.
What was the first car you owned?
It was a second-hand Mazda Familia. That was more than 20 years ago. It was an aff ordable car for the younger generation. I actually tuned it by changing the oil and installing a bodykit!
Did you install any Pioneer audio components in your first car?
Not at that time. They were too expensive! [Laughs]