The changing face of in-car stereo systems

Ford says CD players in cars will soon be defunct - indeed, it has already deleted the CD multichanger option from many of its new cars.

This is because the traditional car stereo is evolving, fast: “In-car entertainment technology is moving digital more rapidly than almost any other element of the vehicle experience,” said Sheryl Connelly, Ford global trends and futuring manager, recently.

 “The in-car CD player – much like pay telephones – is destined to fade away in the face of exciting new technology.”

Why are car companies are making such rapid strides? Because the way we consume music is moving just as fast. CD sales fell 35% in the UK between 2006-2010 - but sales of digital music increased seven-fold. Indeed, digital singles now account for 98% of the market!

The move by Ford and many other car brands towards digital in-car entertainment means in a few years, listening to music in cars is going to be very different to how it is today.

Nowadays, a glovebox full of CDs is common, as is a radio full of pre-sets to favourite local and national stations. Lots of drivers are also using modern cars' auxiliary sockets, to wire up MP3 players and iPods.

In the future, things will be very different. Technologies such as USB sockets and Bluetooth audio streaming will provide a much better link to personal audio devices, with the latter doing away with wires completely. Most car companies nowadays prioritise standard USB and Bluetooth, rather than CD players.

The in-car CD player is already redundant technology for many and this number is only going to grow in the future.

 The days of limited radio stations (and memorising where they are in the frequency range) are also nearly up. In-car DAB brings easy-to-use digital listening to cars. This offers far more choice, and allows people to listen into many more national stations too.

Things will only accelerate as 2015, and the UK national radio analogue switch-off, approaches.

If this isn't enough, car makers are also allowing UK motorists to access internet radio via their smartphones. This is new technology in the UK at the moment, but such is the pace of change, expect interest in it to quickly grow.

The upshot of all this means car stereos will change. They won’t in the future have CD slots, but will offer a full suite of other digital technologies. The choice of listening in cars is going to spiral, particularly now brands such as Ford are standardising connectivity technology such as Bluetooth.

“Ford will obviously continue to offer CD players while there is demand,” said Ford multimedia manager Ralf Brosig. “However, over time we expect customer preferences will lead us quickly into an all-digital approach to in-car audio entertainment.”

Are you ready for it?