Increasingly, Radio Is Squeezed in the Dash

Talking at the NAB Show about the future of radio in the precious car dashboard, Lincoln Financial’s Barry Thomas said it’s not so much that radio could be left out someday, as that radio could be overlooked more and more by busy consumers, given the proliferation of competing technologies, with yet more coming.

The smartphone has had a tremendous impact in the connected car, said Valerie Shuman of the Connected Vehicle Trade Association. For example she recalled that when Ford released its Sync system in 2007, people came onto the car lot and said: “I want the model that has Sync.”

No one is thinking of taking radio out of the car, Shuman said. However the so-called “center stack” is becoming more like a big-screen computing platform. Changes coming to the car environment are huge, and lots of people want to make money from that, she said, including automakers, their suppliers and the telecom industry.

Jon Bucci, who recently retired from Toyota and now consults automakers, says it typically takes three to five years to build a new car platform. Connected car services are causing disruption within the car industry because they are happening in a much quicker timeframe. He added that Toyota looks at things like “task time” and “menu depth” when determining what connectivity features to offer in the vehicle.

CEA’s Mike Bergman mentioned trends in aftermarket receivers, noting that young males 18 to 34 typically buy such products. The average car is 11 years old and aftermarket purchasers want features like rear-seat entertainment installed on their vehicles.

The CD is slowly leaving the dash while built-in HD Radio “looks more healthy” because its on an uptick, he said. He cautioned, however, that Internet radio penetration in the car could grow significantly over the next few years.

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The end of unlimited data plans on the two top cellular carriers will hurt the adoption rate of mobile Internet radio. Consumers would love to have Spotify, Pandora, or in their vehicles provided that these services don't end up costing more than Sirius/XM. HD Radio, if they solve the reception issues by increasing power levels, will extend the life of broadcast radio.
By Greg Harper on 4/14/2013

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