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Ford Replaces CD Player With Streaming Music In New Vehicle


I'm going to pause for a moment and ask you all to fill in the blank. The Ford Motor Company is about to introduce a car that won't have a - now, if you guessed steering wheel, you're a bit early. If you guessed CD player, you've been paying attention. Ford is making a car without a CD player. Instead, it will let drivers stream music and receive satellite TV signals. NPR's Sonari Glinton has this appreciation for the car CD player and a glimpse of the future.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: There are some moments that are universal. You get into the car, slide the CD into the player - gratuitous Sinatra cue here - and, well, off you go.


FRANK SINATRA: (Singing) Out of the tree of life, I just picked me a plum.

GLINTON: Who would want to take my Frank Sinatra, Count Basie and Quincy Jones CDs away - well, this guy.

MICHAEL O'BRIEN: Michael O'Brien - I'm the SUV group marketing manager for Ford.

GLINTON: O'Brien says CD sales have been falling, and Ford has taken notice.

O'BRIEN: Streaming is the fastest growing source of music and video content and particularly with younger consumers who we've found time and time again prefer streaming and subscription services over traditional forms like CDs.

GLINTON: So with the EcoSport, the CD is gone and in its place a device for streaming music. And it's not just that fewer people are buying CDs. With all the gadgets we have in the car and with us, space and weight are at a premium.

O'BRIEN: We're constantly looking for ways to be more efficient with our space and to be more lighter weight and to deliver a better overall experience, and that includes fuel efficiency and whatnot.

GLINTON: The move is a big change for the car business. In addition to getting rid of the CD player, Ford will be offering streaming cable and satellite TV in Ford's giant SUV, the Expedition. Now, don't worry. It's just in the back seats. As road fatalities increase along with distractions, safety advocates have already registered their alarm.

O'BRIEN: As a father of four, I know what it's like to have distractions behind me when I'm driving down the road. And you know, we're going to continue to be vigilant.


GLINTON: I reached Greg Kot by phone. He's music critic at the Chicago Tribune.

And you host "Sound Opinions," a public radio show (laughter).

GREG KOT: Absolutely.

GLINTON: Kot says he knew this day would come, but he says sometimes new does not mean improved.

KOT: Music played on a compact disc as opposed to a smartphone via an MP3 file is far superior sound quality-wise.

GLINTON: Kot says portability trumps quality.

KOT: Because cars don't have CD ports anymore doesn't mean that the CD is going to go away. There's still value in those CDs. There's still a reason to hold on to that collection. At least for me there is. I'll always own a CD player just in the same way that I will always own a turntable.

GLINTON: When you talk to car executives, they see the future of self-driving cars as these mobile entertainment pods with whatever entertainment you want, so CDs, maybe even 8-tracks, even streaming Tiny Desk Concerts. Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.