Port Washington, N.Y. - In-vehicle use of portable media devices is rising, according to The NPD Group, with sales of products that are designed to integrate portable devices in the vehicle accounting for more than $170 million in 2011.
NPD's most recent study, "Mobile CE: A Look Inside the Vehicle," found 84 percent of vehicle owners have a portable media device and more than three-quarters (79 percent) are using them in the car. Half of smartphone owners and 37 percent iPod owners said they use their devices "always" or "most of the time" while driving.
Older technologies were still popular, however: 73 percent still use their FM radio during most car trips, and 57 percent said having a CD player "will be vital in their decision to purchase their next car stereo system."
"Traditional radio and CD audio remain firmly entrenched in the vehicle from both a device and entertainment standpoint," said Ben Arnold, NPD's industry analysis director. "But as ownership of mobile devices, digital content, and apps expands, consumers will be looking for ways to customize the in-vehicle environment with content and services."
Regarding in-vehicle connectivity, 32 percent said this feature is "highly important" when buying car audio products.
While 18 percent of vehicle owners have an auxiliary input installed into their vehicle stereo system, 11 percent are connecting through a USB port, NPD said. Although only 13 percent of vehicles have wireless connectivity, more than half of those who do have it said they always use it or use it most of the time.
"The key is for auto makers and traditional audio manufacturers to facilitate consumer use of connected devices in the vehicle, allowing content from the smartphone, tablet or digital media player to easily stream or be controlled through the deck mounted in the dashboard," Arnold said. "We're only going to see greater consumer attachment to social media, streaming audio and video, and other services as content options grow."
NPD study surveyed more than 1,600 vehicle owners in December 2011.