Connected-car pioneer LoJack will shut down on March 15

LoJack, a pioneer in the field of connected cars, will wind down its American sales operations in 2021. It will stop taking purchase orders in March, but it pledged to continue supporting stolen vehicle services indefinitely.

Founded in 1986, in an era when cars and computers were still largely mutually exclusive, LoJack rose to prominence by offering motorists a stolen vehicle recovery system that law enforcement officials could directly access. This was revolutionary in the 1980s, because even new luxury cars were relatively simple to steal with basic tools. LoJack’s technology was extremely innovative: GPS wasn’t commercially available yet, so its recovery system relied on a small radio transceiver that emits a signal every 15 seconds on a frequency set aside specifically for it.

If your, say, 1990 Ford Thunderbird got stolen, police officers could find it (hopefully in one piece) by tracking its LoJack device. The transceiver helped police officers recover thousands of cars. Commercial GPS systems became increasingly common in the 1990s, however, and trackers encroached on LoJack’s turf. Then, technology like General Motors-developed OnStar gave motorists an alternative to the system that was already built into their car.

LoJack fired back by expanding its roster of features to include boundary alerts and crash detecting, and by branching out into different segments. It notably released a system that tracked stolen laptops. But, much like Nokia, it missed a turn and fell behind. California-based CalAmp purchased the company in 2016 in a bid to turn it around, but the competition (from direct rivals, from start-ups like the freshly launched RecovR, and from carmakers) was already far ahead.

CalAmp explained in a statement that it will continue to support dealership orders for Classic SVR, Connect, and Connect+ products until June 18, 2021, though it’s asking customers to submit all final purchase orders no later than March 15. Suddenly pulling the plug on the project would have a negative effect on the law enforcement officials who use its products, so it will continue to honor its service commitments with police departments indefinitely.

Surprisingly, the announcement only applies to LoJack’s American division. Its international business will continue to operate in locations like Mexico, Italy, and England, among other countries. CalAmp pointed out that its international business operates with a subscription-based business model that’s well-aligned with its strategy.

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