Automakers Putting More Music Apps in the Dashboard

My first car–a 1973 Ford Pinto–had a mono AM radio.  Full stop.  I had to add a cassette player and speakers to get something better.

My second car–a 1975 Chevy Monza 2+2–came with a mono AM radio.  I couldn’t afford anything better, so I just left it alone.

When I got to my third car–an embarrassingly underpowered 1979 Firebird–I couldn’t stand the standard AM radio.  I ripped it out and put in an AM/FM/cassette player with better speakers.

Car number four–a 1984 Honda Prelude–came with a very good factory stereo:  AM/FM/cassette and six speakers.  I didn’t bother modifying it.

My fifth (1988 Mazda MX-5) and sixth (a 1990 Nissan 300 ZX) cars featured AM/FM/cassette CD players.

When the Nissan wore out, I moved to an Acura CL 3.0 which didn’t come with a cassette player.  Same thing with car number eight, an Infiniti G35.  It did, however, come with a dashboard button marked SAT, but since satellite radio wasn’t available in Canada yet, it didn’t do anything,

Car number nine–a Porsche Cayman–had a below-average Bose AM/FM/CD player, I added an aftermarket XM satellite radio and a way to tie in my iPhone.

The biggest leap came with my current car:  AM, FM, CD (which I never use), satellite, sat nav and full iPod integration.  That old Pinto radio is a stone age relic.

The lease on my current car is up in May and since I love shopping for cars, I’ve been checking out various dealerships.  And along with the performance specs of the car, I find myself being very, very particular about what technology stack is being offered in the dashboard.

Damn, there’s some cool stuff.

But I’ve also been frustrated.  A Mazda 6 I was asked to review featured a Pandora icon in the dashboard–but because Pandora isn’t available in Canada, it didn’t do anything.  Shades of that SAT button in the old Infiniti.  I’ve seen other icons (iHeartRadio and Aha come to mind) and they don’t work, either.

That, however, will change.  Connected cars–even for digitally-starved Canadians–are in our future.  And automakers understand this demand.  Check out the deals that Pandora is making.

I’ll ask the question again:  with traditional terrestrial finding space in the dashboard more and more crowded, how will it stand out?  This could the most important question the industry has to answer.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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