America, a country with so many cars, is the canary in the coal mine that will indicate how people will consume radio, and other connected media, in cars into the future.
“Like the radio industry, the car industry is seeing a lot of disruption,” said Jacobs, who works with car manufacturers to see what new car purchasers are thinking about when they want to buy a new car.
Jacobs’ research has found that dashboard technology is far more important than drivability to American consumers at this stage in automotive history. He says the radio industry’s challenge is the think of how radio will fit into the connected car system in future.
There is good and bad news for radio broadcasters from his research.
The good news is that “a car without a radio would not sell” according to Jacobs’ research, which found that 82% of people would not consider buying a car if it did not have a radio in it.
Radio still dominates in-car share, with 74% of all listening being done to the car radio. “Radio is the one thing most people would keep in their cars if they had to give up features.”
Despite continuing loyalty to radios in cars, the news long term may not be so good, unless radio does something about it. Smartphones are gaining ground and the ability to connect them to the dashboard is presenting new challenges for radio.
“They are going to make autonomous cars, whether you like it or not…
The dirty little secret that car manufacturers have had to swallow is that people are more loyal to their phones than they are to their cars…
When driverless cars can make their own way to work, and the smartphone is connected to a dashboard screen, there will be more options for consumers who may no longer need to listen and drive. When their hands and eyes are free, will they still listen to radio or will they read the news or watch snack videos on their way to work?
“With the connected auto drive car, this will mean that traditional radio is even further away from being front and centre on the dashboard,” said Jacobs.
He believes it is vitally important that radio gets on the Android and Apple platform phones so that radio has a chance of being central to cars that will increasingly give priority to phones in key positions on the dashboard and allow more connectivity to the car’s telemetry and media functionality.
See our other Radio Days Europe 2016 reports here.