The Disappearing Car Radio

Whenever I’m off on a trip somewhere, I always rent a different kind of car just so I can see what all the manufacturers are offering when it comes to infotainment systems. While the interface and functionality change from car to car, they all have something in common: with each new model, the radio gets harder to find.

Back in the day, it was easy to spot the radio: it was that thing with knobs and numbers in the middle of the dashboard. Operating was easy: volume, tuning, tone controls, the ability to switch from AM to FM. Now, though, operating a car radio ain’t so easy–if you can find it.

A couple of years ago, Avis upgraded me to an optioned-out Cadillac. I spent about 10 minutes in the Avis lot trying to figure out how to work the radio because it was so deeply buried inside the infotainment interface.

Given that in-car listening is the lifeblood of terrestrial radio, broadcasters need to recognize this is a problem. A big one. And as RAIN points out, it’s a problem that’s only going to get bigger.

In a review of the 2016 Honda Civic, one auto publication noted that most of the change from the previous year’s model happened in the dashboard. And the new dashboard is all about streaming audio.

Digging deeper into how Honda is marketing the 2016 Civic, and the specifications of the Civic’s 2016 head unit, shines a spotlight on the challenge facing terrestrial radio in the car — one of radio’s mainstay listening environments.

As a directional example, the 2016 Honda Civic points toward key trends:

  • AM/FM radio reception will not be eliminated from new and future cars.
  • But the traditional radio receiver will disappear in many, or most, car models.
  • The status of radio in the car is being reduced from the only audio entertainment option to one app among many.
  • In some cars, radio is already demoted to a level below online listening services in the dashboard hierarchy. At the top level, radio is invisible.

Read the full story here.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.