Are in-dash CD players are finally going the way of 8 Track and Cassette Players? Automakers have predicted this for the better part of the past decade as car stereos augmented the standard CD player with auxiliary MP3 jacks, USB/iPod connectors and, eventually, streaming Bluetooth audio. This year, J.D. Power’s Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study found that as many people listen to CDs as external devices, like an iPod or a smartphone. In past studies, more drivers still listened to CDs, but the times are now changing.
It’s already happening, and not just in tech-heavy cars like the Tesla Model S. In a 2013 Dodge Dart, and the CD player goes into the center armrest — a spot that underlines just how many drivers Dodge expects to use it. Up-level versions of the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee and redesigned Grand Cherokee, meanwhile, forego CD players entirely. You can still get one, but it goes in the center armrest or glove compartment. Chevrolet’s 7-inch My Link touch-screen in the 2014 Sonic eliminates the CD player altogether. And in the 2014 Kia Soul and 2013 Chevrolet Spark, you can’t buy a CD player in any trim.
Are we just a few years away from CD players becoming extinct? And what are car designers doing with the free space? Ford, Honda and Hyundai vehicles still have tried-and-true CD players, but all three are monitoring customer habits to see when that will change.
In the Sonic, Dart and both Jeeps, larger touch-screens take up space where the CD slot might have gone. That makes sense; after all, the center stack is some of the most sought-after space inside a car. But how much space does the CD player really take up? Not much. Even though we are only looking at a quarter of an inch of horizontal space, this is still the prime real estate area inside any vehicle. Every bit of space counts and can be reconfigured. GM products like the new Chevy Impala and Cadillac XTS have a hidden compartment behind the touch-screen equipped with a USB port that can store a good-sized smartphone and wallet.
There are still a number of people who are using the CD more than they are the external device. We have to recognize the investment in our CD libraries, and to many people there are sometimes so much more pressing financial needs than a new iPod.
Will there be a year when in-dash CD players go completely extinct? While we are reluctant to venture a guess, we do think it will be a slow exit, much like the lengthy exit of cassette decks. When that happens, the trusty CD slot will become an artifact of the past. The day will come when you see a CD slot in the dash of a car and you say “Look at that old thing”, the technology will scream “I’m an old car”.
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