Generational Shifts for In-Car Audio. –


A growing body of research is showing Americans aren’t as keen on mucking with the car radio as automakers are. While that may conjure images of struggling Baby Boomers, a new report from IHS Automotive shows no generation is more nostalgic for knobs and buttons than Millennials.

More than a third (34%) of 18 to 37 year-olds prefer basic controls for audio. That compares to 18% of Gen X drivers and 20% of Boomers who said the same thing.

“There does seem to be something going on where Millennials seem to be having a visceral reaction to built-in displays,” senior analyst Colin Bird tells Inside Radio. “They’re digital natives and they’ve used the best and newest designs, but they don’t think manufacturers are delivering that and would like to circumvent it if they’re not going to do a good job at it.” To put the findings into perspective, the only demo that pines more for the days of old car radios is those 75+.

The IHS data also shows another counterintuitive finding: traditional audio buttons are most sought-after by drivers who are most likely to listen to streaming or mp3 players.

The report echoes data released this spring by Ipsos that found 91% of drivers prefer old fashioned AM/FM buttons to control radio in their car. IHS reports less than a quarter of drivers (22%) want a digital display audio system in their next car.

But Bird says it’s unlikely automakers will hit reverse, pointing out display units are becoming standard on even lower-end models like the Dodge Dart and Chevy Spark. “It’s definitely the future,” he says. “If you’re going to have it on the Chevy Spark, you are going to have it on pretty much any vehicle.”

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