Competitive Comparison Trends

The Benefit of Experience

Every year, we see some features that are available on more and more vehicles, and others, like the moon, are on the wane. For example, exterior pinstripes went out with pinstriped suits (though from what I’ve seen at Bay and King Streets in downtown Toronto, that may be premature). It wasn’t that long ago that cassette players were standard in vehicles. They went away for most vehicles about 10 years ago with the last holdouts in the mid-2010s. Let’s review how we used to connect our devices to the vehicles we drive, and how we do it now.

What’s an iPod, Dad?

A must-have in the 2000s was an iPod interface. Some of the installations for this feature from the factory were in the hundreds of dollars. Now we take USB ports for granted, and heaven help the manufacturer today that only offers one in a vehicle.

MP3 playback was a big deal. You could play files from a memory stick or from a CD. This is long gone now. Who bothers copying music to a memory stick to use in their vehicle when virtually every vehicle on the road can stream music from a phone?

What’s a CD, Mom?

Speaking of CDs, these are dying a slow death. Only about 40% of vehicles in the 2019 model year that we evaluated had single disc CD players. Contrast this with the first 10 years of the 21stcentury. CD players were a must-have in almost every vehicle. On the other hand, more than 75% of vehicles for 2019 were equipped with Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto. We carry our phones and the ability to stream music from services like Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora with us. Why store it on physical media anymore?

What’s IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence, Sis?

Connectivity within the vehicle continues to rise. Very few vehicles had a WiFi (IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence) hot spot on board in 2018. In 2019, about 15% of vehicles were so equipped. So far in 2020, we’re seeing just over 20% of vehicles with WiFi hot spots available.

WiFi hot spots are available on board the vehicle two ways:

  • Connect your phone or device either by a cable or wirelessly to the vehicle, and share your data with passengers through WiFi.
  • The vehicle comes with 4G cellular access on board, with a set amount of data per month through a subscription with the manufacturer, and the vehicle shares that feed with passengers.

We’re finding the second method is holding steady at about 22% of vehicles.

WiFi/Cellular Benefits

To remotely control your vehicle, you currently need cellular access on the vehicle itself. It will be interesting to see if manufacturers will continue to charge for this kind of connectivity, or view it as a necessary feature. Most manufacturers offer a free trial period to try out the services they offer. These often include mobile apps that allow you to start, pre-heat and cool your vehicle, all from your phone. After you’ve crawled into a freezing cold vehicle after your free trial has ended, most people will likely be happy to pay the fee to keep in touch with their vehicle. Just as manufacturers are getting 4G sorted out, a new, speedier standard called 5G is right around the corner.

Not only has the way we connect to our vehicles changed, but the very nature of how we control them has changed. As we enter autoshow season, we’ll be watching for the trends in features that manufacturers think will influence their customers’ purchase decision, and what features they drop along the way. It’s a tough market for manufacturers. Vehicles are generally very reliable, well built, powerful and relatively thrifty on fuel, right across the industry. We’ll be right along with you tracking the changes and helping you sort out the features that you want on your next vehicle.