Every kid in America wants one. In 2005, the Apple iPod is to music what the transistor radio was in the 1960s.
So it is only natural that auto makers, suppliers, dealers and independent audio retailers see nothing but dollar signs from a massive market emerging for personalized audio systems.
And Apple, the Cupertino, CA, company that pioneered the personal computer, appears to have another groundbreaking hit on its hands with the iPod, a digital music player no larger than a wallet and with enough memory to store up to 15,000 songs in compressed-audio format.
Most young people listen to their iPods with headphones, but the auto industry recognizes the “killer ap” is to have a simple connector in the instrument panel so an iPod can be plugged in with little fuss.
The new Mercedes M-Class, for instance, has an optional dealer-installed port in the glovebox to accommodate an iPod, Bob Borchers, senior director-iPod auto integration for Apple, says at the show.
Once plugged in, it synchs with the vehicle's audio system, and provides a digital read out on the radio display of the song that is playing. The driver also can scroll through songs on the iPod without handling the actual device. Instead, the driver can use the audio system's controls.
Mercedes will market aggressively in Europe its iPod Interface Kit this summer — first in June with the launch of the B-Class Sports Tourer and then beginning in July with availability in the current A-Class, C-Class and E-Class models, as well as others. The price in Germany is E183 ($230) plus installation, but does not include the iPod itself.
Mercedes is not alone. Apple also has links withAG, Volvo Cars, Mini, Motor Corp.'s Scion youth brand, Motor Co. Ltd., Alfa Romeo SpA and Ferrari SpA. Each auto maker, through dealer networks worldwide, is establishing sales and installation of kits to accommodate iPods.