The CD is Finally Exiting the Car

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Car CD Player

The car CD player has shown remarkable staying power given that many drivers haven’t used an actual compact disc in years.

But that is beginning to change.

About 18 cars no longer come with a CD players, says GCH Automotive’s Greg Delgado.

The Honda Civic has lacked a CD player since 2016.  The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is missing a CD player on its step-up trim package.  The new Ford EcoSport compact SUV will lose the CD player in 2018.  Jeep Cherokee models lack a CD player as do some Toyota RAV 4s, said Strategy Analytics. Tesla models don’t have one. And the list is growing.  But its not growing as fast as expected.

A few years ago IHS Automotive reported that 46 percent of US cars won’t have a CD player by 2021.  But it has since revised that to a more conservative 25 percent.

Anna Buettner, Automotive Manager of IHS Markit told us, “Basically what we have learned over the past year or so is that …more mechless systems are coming into the market, but obsolete technology really dies very slowly.  Automotive companies are moving to optional CD players, but our numbers were too aggressive.”

Last year 13 percent of cars sold in the US  were mechless (lacking a CD or DVD mechanism).  This year 16 percent will lack a CD, said IHS.

Of course, some cars lend themselves to new trends in audio more than others.  Regarding the Honda Civic, a Honda spokesperson said, “We did do a fair amount of research prior to the decision, and came to the conclusion that many customers prefer to have their music via radio, USB (iPod, etc) or streaming.  So dropping the CD player became our strategy for that vehicle.”

The belief for many car makers is that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are sufficiently attractive and easy to use technologies to replace the CD in the long run. For example, Hyundai kept the CD in the base Elantra SE but eliminated it in the step up option package that provides CarPlay and Android Auto plus a 7-inch display and HD Radio.

But for the aftermarket, the tendency is still to keep the CD. Kenwood’s Tony Mercado said, “Our intel tells us that when a customer is faced with the option of buying a receiver with CD or not, they still opt for the unit with a CD transport. ..”

Mercado said, “We have to be careful not to lose sight of the forest for the trees here.  We are aware of all the great ways to access or stream content from SiriusXM to Spotify, etc, but we cannot overlook consumer expectations and actual listening habits when in the car.  A study by Ipsos in 2015 showed that 64% of people were still listening to CD’s in the car, but even more interesting is 84% of Americans were still listening to AM and FM radio.  There is something to be said about just getting in the car and driving as opposed to connecting, syncing and pairing devices to a car stereo… ”

Pioneer said the decline in demand for CD playback is proceeding at the same pace as the last decade.  It noted that the cost difference between aftermarket radios with a CD or DVD or without one remains small enough that most consumers continue to choose the CD or DVD.  That said, mechless is growing, confirmed Pioneer.

Alpine’s Steve Crawford agrees mechless is growing and will continue in the future, even while there’s plenty of demand for CD.  Alpine now offers  “six mechless systems (screen models and traditional 1-DIN models) which is the largest number of mechless systems we have ever offered.”

Strategy Analytics said mechless head units will rise globally from 29 million shipments in 2017 to approximately 88 million shipments in 2023, according to Senior Analyst Greg Basich.  That’s a compound annual growth rate of almost 30 percent.

Photo via WikiHow

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  1. For immigrants who love music of their original country, they will still use CD because the FM radio doesn’t provide their favorite music.

  2. My shop gets 1-2 calls a day to add CD players to these vehicles that are taking them away. Some customers won’t buy the car without one even thou they will probably only use it once or twice. We need an option to add a CD player to the factory system when the car doesn’t come with it stock. Brandmotion has a few but they are a little expensive. This will be a great add on in the coming years until people are really ready to buy a 5 dollar USB drive and spend a few minutes loading their computers with the music they have on cd’s.

  3. great opportunity to convert cds to digital variable bit rate mp3 or lossless if quality is there.


  4. That’s all well and good….. but we need to educate our customers on the follies of compressed music!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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