Infinite Dial 2019: Radio is still tops in cars, infotainment system ownership grows

AM/FM radio still holds a lead for audio consumption in cars. The latest edition of the Infinite Dial survey found that radio is still tops, but a growing number of options for accessing other audio formats behind the wheel is eroding a bit of that long-standing dominance.

For this portion of the survey, most of the responses are from the participants aged 18 and up who have driven or ridden in a car in the past month. Within that audience, 81% said they have ever used AM/FM radio in a vehicle. The next closest audio source is owned digital music at 45% and CD player at 43%. Online radio took a 28% share and podcasts ticked past a quarter with 26%.

Over the years, several of the digital options have been securing larger shares of responses. Podcasts in particular have grown in popularity, rising from 19% in 2017 and 23% in 2018. Online radio was 26% in 2017 and held steady at 28% in 2018. Intriguingly, owned digital music has shown no rate change in the previous two years’ results.

The choices for the most frequently used audio source show a gradual and slight shift away from AM/FM radio. From 57% of the responses in 2017, radio dipped to 56% in 2018 and 52% in 2019. Again, owned digital music has stayed static over the years, holding at 15%. Online audio also held steady from its 2018 result of 12%. Podcasts crept up from 3% to 4%.

The changes toward in-car listening may be bolstered by the greater proliferation of in-dash infotainment systems. Ownership of these platforms reached 19% in 2019, up from 15% the year prior.

Anna Washenko