As the Los Angeles Times reports, Hyundai has announced that its 2016 line of cars will feature a new touchscreen audio system that communes via Bluetooth with your Apple or Android phones and can support third-party apps—but doesn’t take CDs. And while it’s only certain models that will take on the new Display Audio System at first, it’s yet another portent for an eventual end to the technology, with in-car CD players seemingly destined to go the way of tape decks, eight-tracks, and having a banjo player on your rumble seat. After all, there is the old familiar saying, “As Hyundai goes, so goes Americans who drive Hyundais because they just sort of got talked into it at Carmax.”
Of course, Hyundai isn’t the first automaker to do away with the CD player, which once entertained millions of drivers with their own carefully crafted, 74-minute terrible mixes. In 2011, Ford said its European Ford Focus models would be switching to USB and wifi hubs only, with the company’s Sheryl Connelly hinting that this would soon be the case for all Ford automobiles by telling The Telegraph, “The in-car CD player—much like pay telephones—is destined to fade away in the face of exciting new technology.” Still, it is somewhat surprising how quick that fade has been, given that its predecessor, the tape deck, held on for nearly four decades—at least two of those with Aerosmith’s Pump stuck inside it.
But as Wondering Sound points out (and as regular updates on the Billboard charts have already told us), the demise of the in-car CD player is in tandem with the demise of the CD. Last year, only 141 million of the 257 million albums sold were sold on CD; the Recording Industry Association of America’s chart of CD shipments shows a precipitous decline beginning around 2005, the year that most car manufacturers introduced standard iPod connectivity. (Perhaps not coincidentally, it was also the year that 50 Cent released “Candy Shop,” causing many to swear off music forever.)
With Hyundai becoming among the first to fully phase out the CD player, it seems likely that others will imminently follow suit, leaving the technology fully in the hands of those who drive used cars and possibly the next generation of retro-fetishists. And soon will come the day when a character in a ’90s-set movie comedy uses one of those CD wallet visors as a sight gag, and you will feel death’s hand on your shoulder, pressing the “skip track” button.
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