The great fade-out: CD players in the dash

Jay Ramey is an associate editor with Autoweek, an affiliate of Automotive News.

One thing you're guaranteed to find in the home of anyone old enough to remember the 1990s is a stack of CDs. And we don't mean certificates of deposit. For older millennials, they can be CDs of deeply regrettable '90s bands such as Korn, 311 or Limp Bizkit; for Gen Xers, it's probably a mix of '80s metal, rock or new wave; the homes of baby boomers are pretty much guaranteed to be stocked with CDs from the Beach Boys, Billy Joel and the Eagles (plus boxed sets of PBS World War II documentaries on VHS).

But lately, new cars haven't been offering single-disc or multidisc CD players in the numbers we saw even five years ago.

Their departure began quietly about a decade ago, when some producers of midsize cars targeting a younger demographic decided to ditch them, assuming (quite correctly) that the vast majority of owners had a bunch of old iPods from their college years collectively holding terabytes of music.

In the last five years, new cars with single-disc in-dash players or six-disc changers have gone from a slight majority -- about 6 or 7 of 10 -- to a slight minority of about 4 of 10 by our rough estimates, just based on the new cars that we review.


FROM OUR ARCHIVES: Why we need to save the CD players

Of course, some automakers are more serious about ditching them than others, but finding an automaker that offers them on all models is a tall order these days.

According to IIHS, 24 percent of new cars sold in 2015 did not have CD players, and by 2021, some 46 percent won't have them. Compare that with 2014 when 83 percent had them.

Using a paired phone full of music is certainly more convenient than having a collection of plastic discs in a "bandoleer" on the car's sun visor, but there are many millions of Americans who never quite switched to MP3s, and some probably never will.


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