58% of 2009-model year cars in the US will have iPod connections

58% of 2009-model year cars in the US will have iPod connections

For the past few years, US consumers have been demanding improved connectivity between their vehicles' audio/video systems and their portable media players (PMPs), particularly iPods. OEMs have responded to that demand, with 39% of vehicle models in the US in 2008 expected to offer iPod integration options.

Next year, 58% of car models will have iPod support available from the factory. For integration with other PMPs and portable devices, OEMs will offer USB interface options on one-third of all available vehicle models next year, up from 16% in 2008.

The rising penetration of iPod and USB interfaces in motor vehicles is a part of a general effort by OEMs to respond to t consumer demand for connectivity. A recent survey of the 2009 model-year vehicles, compiled in iSuppli's Automotive Technology Availability Index, reveals that OEMs are placing more emphasis than ever before on technology features.

"The automotive industry is at the point where in-vehicle technologies – or the lack of them – are influencing sales," said Phil Magney, vice president of automotive research for iSuppli. "The charge toward greater technological integration has been led by car OEMs like Hyundai and Honda, which are making USB/iPod combination interfaces standard on many of their vehicles. It's also been spurred by OEMs like Audi and Mercedes, which offer integrated Media Device Gateways that allow any device imaginable to integrate with a vehicle."

Bluetooth stays red hot: Beyond iPod/USB connectivity, OEMs are aggressively adopting Bluetooth wireless connections. After achieving a 55% availability in new US vehicle models in 2008, Bluetooth will rise to 82% in 2009, either as standard or optional equipment.

Many new implementations of Bluetooth also offer advanced voice recognition and support of streaming audio transfer.

"These days, nearly every mobile device offers some Bluetooth connectivity, whether it is simple Hands-Free Profile (HFP) or more advanced profiles like Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) or Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP)," said Mark Boyadjis, North American automotive analyst for iSuppli. "The influx of Bluetooth technology has blanketed the consumer electronics industry, and this is spilling over into cars."

The result is mobile device telematics solutions like Ford's Sync. Sync offers Bluetooth hands-free phone and also supports A2DP and AVRCP for streaming recorded or live audio content. Other OEMs like Honda and Mazda are also offering optional Bluetooth solutions with the A2DP profile in their newest models, like the 2009 Acura TSX and the 2009 Mazda 6. By the end of this year, Sync will add 911 Assist and Vehicle Health Report (VHR).

Hard driving hard drives: Meanwhile, iSuppli's Technology Availability Index also reports that embedded Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) used in infotainment systems will be available in nearly one-third of the 2009 model line-up. This trend is fuelled by the increasing size of digital maps and related content along with storage for audio files. Higher-definition maps, 3D images and millions of POIs demand HDDs with greater data capacities, even as data aggregators develop better compression methods. OEMs like Chrysler, Mercedes, Ford, Volkswagen and Nissan have responded by integrating HDDs into their current products.

Location, location, location: Another feature that is more evident in the 2009 model year is real-time location-based content, such as traffic data, weather conditions and fuel prices. Many OEMs have expanded real-time traffic into their products for 2009, including Ford, Volkswagen, Mercedes and GM.

Satellite providers XM and Sirius have expanded their traffic coverage into more metropolitan areas and increased granularity within existing covered areas. Every vehicle OEM in the US has adopted some satellite technology, and several are offering the advanced location-based content.

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