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Honda Civic 2016: A case study of the disappearing radio

In a review of the 2016 Honda Civic, one auto publication noted that most of the change from the previous year’s model happened in the dashboard. And the new dashboard is all about streaming audio.

Digging deeper into how Honda is marketing the 2016 Civic, and the specifications of the Civic’s 2016 head unit, shines a spotlight on the challenge facing terrestrial radio in the car — one of radio’s mainstay listening environments.

As a directional example, the 2016 Honda Civic points toward key trends:

  • AM/FM radio reception will not be eliminated from new and future cars.
  • But the traditional radio receiver will disappear in many, or most, car models.
  • The status of radio in the car is being reduced from the only audio entertainment option to one app among many.
  • In some cars, radio is already demoted to a level below online listening services in the dashboard hierarchy. At the top level, radio is invisible.

CarPlay Is the Star

In Honda’s Civic website, Apple CarPlay is not just the key new feature of the dashboard, it is presented as the main attraction of the entire “Interior” section of the car’s marketing. CarPlay puts smartphone controls into the dashboard.


honda civic interior promo


A two-minute video advertises CarPlay. In the audio portions there is zero mention of AM/FM, or traditional radio. There is no image on the screen that indicates how you might find radio or turn it on. Podcasts are called out. The video explains how to play on-demand music using Siri. Same with the Android Auto video.

Radio in the Specs

In the specifications for Honda’s 2016 head unit, radio is an ancillary feature nearly lost in a mass of information about the dashboard screen technicals, and internet-delivered audio content.

Here are the items displayed in Honda’s DII 7-inch dashboard screen, as presented by the CIVICX site:

  • Driving Computer
  • Smart Maintenance
  • Audio System
  • Navigation
  • Telephone
  • SMS12/Email
  • Apple CarPlay4
  • Android Auto™5

Wither radio? (It’s in the Audio System.)

Drilling into the key audio and connectivity features, here is the spec list:

  • 7-inch Display Audio touchscreen with integrated HVAC controls*^
  • Android Auto™3 and Apple CarPlay®*^4
  • HondaLink™ connected-car system*9
  • HondaLink Assist10 (when paired with compatible phone) *
  • HD Radio™11
  • Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™ with Voice Recognition and Honda HD Digital Traffic2
  • Smartphone-Based Navigation App Compatibility
  • New-generation “2.0” SiriusXM®8 Radio*
  • Pandora®6 interface
  • SMS12 Text Message function
  • USB Audio Interface13
  • 160-Watt 4 Speaker AM/FM Audio System
  • 180-Watt 8 Speaker AM/FM Audio System
  • 450-Watt 10 Speaker (Including Sub-Woofer) AM/FM Audio System*

Radio is near the bottom of the list. The Audio Features page has nearly 5,000 words of description, and AM/FM is mentioned five times, including the three mentions above. Large descriptive paragraphs are devoted to Pandora, Aha by Harmon, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

Upshot

A new dashboard is the main selling point of the 2016 Civic, and audio streaming is the selling point of the new dashboard.

Welcome to the present. The future is arriving, ever more each model year as the aged American fleet turns over.

NOTE: RAIN Summit Nashville will feature new in-car listening research from Edison Research: Share of Ear in the Car. It not only examines how people are listening generally, it also investigates how people’s listening habits change when they gain new choices in new cars. CLICK HERE for Summit registration. Also SEE THIS for today’s special Vinyl Record Day ticket promotion.

 

Brad Hill

9 Comments

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