It’s been a theme in this blog for some time now, amplified by our trip to CES in January, and my appearance on a panel at Convergence this spring.
The digital dashboard is coming. Maybe better put, it’s here now.
The CES experience gave us the opportunity to talk to several automotive designers, engineers, and strategists. Each said essentially the same thing: with safety as a priority, the automakers hope to provide consumers with many digital options in cars and a great information and entertainment experience. While they all sang radio’s praises, they also indicated they would follow consumer tastes and the ongoing desire for more choices.
At Convergence, Greater Media’s Buzz Knight led a panel discussion highlighted by Toyota’s John Bucce and GM’s Frankie James. Their Entune and Cadillac CUE systems respectively are part of the movement to transform the car into a four-wheel entertainment center.
Of course, we devoted a number of questions in Techsurvey8 to broadcast radio’s relationship with the car. We learned that more than half of all respondents tell us that the lion’s share of their AM/FM listening takes place behind the wheel. And nearly one in ten now has a system like Entune or Ford’s SYNC. In a reversal of the usual trend, progressively older consumers are more apt to own a vehicle with one of these digital command centers.
And here are two key items about these digital dashboards that perhaps you did not know…
First, about one-fifth of those who have vehicles equipped with these systems indicate they are listening to less broadcast radio as a result. That’s a big number, driven in no small part by the expanding number of entertainment options available on these hi-tech dashboard “desktops.”
Second, the price of entry continues to drop. In a recent CNET article, “The Five Most Connected Cars,” two of their top choices are the inexpensive Ford Fiesta equipped with SYNC AppLink, and the Toyota Tacoma pickup truck with Entune. The Fiesta’s price is under $18,000 while the Tacoma is in the $27,000 range – both affordable vehicles, and probably a surprise to those who believe that it’s mostly Audis, BMWs, and Lincolns that offer these systems.
And that’s the point – the automakers and the after-market manufacturers are looking for ways to make the digital dashboard a cheap, easy entry point. Now that the majority of consumers own a smartphone, car connectivity will become an even bigger priority in showrooms around America.
It all points to the need for broadcast radio to do what it does best – serve local communities with programming and personalities that you just can’t get anywhere else with a great consumer experience.
It’s so simple you wonder why everyone’s not doing it.