Does anyone still listen to CDs in their car or have we all migrated to iPods and other personal storage devices, and/or to HD or satellite radio? With so many more infotainment choices available now, and digital music downloads on the rise while CD sales continue to decline, can automakers just do away with CD changers?
Someday they will follow 8-track and cassette players to the technology afterlife, but analysts and marketers agree that that is not likely to happen soon. According to the research firm iSuppli, virtually every 2009 vehicle model for sale in the U.S. offers CD as standard equipment on one or more trims. Sixty percent offer iPod connections while 36% offer USB connectors.
“The CD is slowly declining in the OEM application but it will be a long time before it is completely gone,” notes Angela Flynn, director of OEM marketing at Clarion Corporation of America. “In recent years it has shifted from in-dash 6 CD changers to single CD now that there are so many other music playback options. Several market research and industry sources say the CD will be in the vehicle beyond 2014, and I think it will be close to then. If digital music sales continue to rise 10% each year that indicates the CD would be wiped out in 2015.”
The consulting firm SBD predicts that the first cars without a CD player could be launched in Europe by around 2012, most likely in an economy vehicle. Jon Cropley, automotive group manager at IMS Research, believes it will be eight to ten years before CD drives disappear completely.
Continental would like to see CDs exit even faster. The firm markets a flat panel radio designed without a CD player but with the ability to play music on USB sticks, SD cards, and MP3 players, and support for Bluetooth wireless music streaming. The system library can process more than 30,000 songs. Now there is a worthy challenge for speech recognition.