DETROIT – Panasonic Automotive Systems Co. of America clearly has been paying attention to the auto industry trend toward highly specialized niche vehicles that may strike a chord, literally, with certain potential buyers.
The audio system specialist pairs up with Fender Musical Instruments Corp. – whose world-famous guitars have been plucked, beaten, torched, painted, gouged and even licked by rock virtuosos such as Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan – for a concept vehicle that will resonate with novice and pro guitarists alike.
At this year’s North American International Auto Show here, Panasonic and Fender roll out a concept car that is extravagant and silly – except to those who love guitars.
The two companies teamed up to outfit an ’07 Jeep Compass with a premium audio system with nine speakers and a 530-watt amplifier.
Each speaker is covered with the same metallic silver mesh that has graced Fender guitar amplifiers for decades. The chrome-plated Fender logo also adorns each speaker in the vehicle. One mid-range speaker is mounted to each A-pillar.
But the coolest feature is the reasonably sized digital Fender guitar amplifier that stows flat in the cargo floor under a protective panel. Open the lift gate, flip a switch to raise the amp out of its storage well and let the tailgate jam session begin.
A chrome guitar jack (same as on a Fender Stratocaster guitar) mounted inside the Jeep’s cargo hold connects to the amp as well as to the vehicle’s audio system for a full-bodied audio experience with the doors propped open.
So how do Panasonic and Fender plan to sell this limited-audience concept?
Tom Dunn, marketing group manager for Panasonic, says the two companies hope to convince an auto maker or two to offer the audio system as a factory-installed option, but he says installation at dealerships is a possibility as well.
Dunn says Panasonic has been displaying the concept for auto makers at its NAIAS booth this week at Cobo Center. Reaction, he says, has been enthusiastic.
Also at its Detroit auto show booth, Panasonic (as well as Fender) hosted a concert by legendary surf guitarist Dick Dale.
On hand for the event was record producer Elliot Scheiner, who helped Panasonic pioneer its remarkable ELS Surround audio system, now available in the Acura TL, RDX and MDX.