COMMENTARY: Car CD players yield to smartphone tech

CARY, N.C. - 

I once had a Pearl Jam CD stuck in my car for more than two years.

That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I suppose if I had to pick any album to be lodged in the dashboard and playing on repeat, “Vs.” would be at the top of the list.

But unlike Pearl Jam’s rock legacy, compact discs themselves are being left in the rearview mirror.

Best Buy said they will no longer sell CDs, for example, and it appears folks in the auto industry may be following suit.

Online lease marketplace Swapalease.com said it will take the single CD option off its vehicle details pages, a decision the company said was driven by research indicating there simply is not as much interest in the lower-end tech perks.

I talked with Swapalease executive vice president Scot Hall about this decision on Thursday.

As part of creating a better experience on the site for those transfering a lease, Swapalease aims to trim the information they have to provide, which is already at a high level, he said.

With user indifference to CD players in cars (searches for that option are down sharply), that’s one less step the person listing the car has to take.

So, with customer back in mind, Swapalease cut it from the list of options. It also removed front air bags, appearance package, cassette, MP3 jack, targa roof and vented seating from the list of options.  

Hall said some of the important features these days are options like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth, through which many stream music via smartphone, obviously.

Course, that’s not all they do.

With navigation features already built in to options like Apple CarPlay, Hall believes the next feature to go will be in-car navigation.

In fact, the lack of residual boost from in-car nav was a talking point from a residual value panel discussion this past fall at Used Car Week.

As far as CDs, they appear to already be on their way out — at least in vehicles, anyway.

Hall mentioned during our call that his 2017 model-year car has Apple CarPlay and a CD player. Except the CD player is tucked away in the glovebox. Almost like it’s being hidden.

Now, I’m no dissident when it comes to technology, and I haven’t bought a CD in years.

And when I drive, I mostly listen to music and podcasts on my smartphone, streamed through the Bluetooth feature in my car.

But like the 1990s rock albums withering away in the grungy booklet behind my passenger seat, there is something nostalgic about popping that new CD in the player.

Windows down, of course.

Joe Overby is senior editor of AuSM and can be reached at [email protected]



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