Home Cars Autoweek Asks: Should CD players in cars stay or go?

Autoweek Asks: Should CD players in cars stay or go?

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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 like 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 midsize cars targeting at 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 out of 10 — to a slight minority of about 4 out of 10 by our rough estimates, just based on the new cars that we review. 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 at all. Compare that to 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 "bandolier" on the car's sun visor, but there are many millions of Americans who never quite switched to MP3s, and some probably never will.

Should CD players go the way of the cassette players in cars, or should they stick around as the last physical format? Let us know in the comments below.

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