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 Detroit auto show, Panasonic and Fender rolled 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.
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.