One Year In, Pandemic Impact Positive For In-Dash Audio


The pandemic has increased the importance of the personal vehicle and in-dash infotainment today, versus pre-COVID, a new study shows.

And, it appears this is especially true for Millennials and Gen Z.

So says a national CARAVAN survey conducted by ENGINE Insights. The survey was conducted on behalf of DTS. As such, it is no surprise that it is highly supportive of broadcast radio consumption while in the car.

Still, the findings are telling, regardless of the sample size or where the respondents came from.

According to the survey, radio is “indispensable/highly important” to seven out of ten vehicle owners, with nearly 80 percent of Millennials who participated in the study valuing radio in the dashboard more than their generational counterparts (Gen Z/GenX/Boomers).

“This new survey reveals key trends driven by the pandemic, including the rise in the importance of both the personal vehicle and in-dash infotainment, as well as a change in the kind of content listened to in-vehicle,” said Eric Corliss, Manager at ENGINE Insights.

He was particularly struck by some of the demographic data. For example, Millennials value radio in the dashboard highly, with 78% saying it is indispensable and that households with children are most likely to find their vehicle more important today — and to view it as a place of refuge.

Furthermore, these demos, along with Gen Z, are the most likely to place greater importance on dashboard entertainment/information today, versus pre-COVID, Corliss said.

Personal Vehicle Grows in Importance – Place of Refuge

The CARAVAN survey also finds that 47% of all vehicle owners feel their personal vehicle is more important than ever to them today versus pre-COVID, with only 6%saying their vehicle is less important as they no longer commute. Those who say their vehicle is more important now are equally likely to cite as reasons: a discomfort with public transportation or ride-sharing, and a perception of their vehicle as a place of refuge during these challenging times – and these numbers are even higher for those with children in the household.

The bigger takeaway: Nine out of ten vehicle owners participating as respondents say it is important to have radio in their dashboard, with over half wanting it as the anchor of their media diet.

Other key findings include that dashboard entertainment/information has become more important in the pandemic because of the ability to listen to music as an anxiety reliever, given all the bad news and stress in the world (especially true for Gen Z) and the ability to access local news/pandemic bulletins.

More than half say the kind of content they listen to in their vehicle has changed versus pre-pandemic.

Jeff Jury, GM for the Connected Car division of Xperi, comments, “Given how highly Millennials value today’s radio, its relevance to the vehicle dashboard is confirmed for decades to come. This study also reinforces that car owners are looking for a dashboard that offers infotainment content that is personalized, discoverable, and textually and visually-rich.”

Personalization Key

Four in five vehicle owners say it is important for their in-vehicle dashboard entertainment to be personalized to their particular tastes and interests and this is increasingly relevant to young consumers, Gen Z (91%) and Millennials (89%). Top reasons for the importance of personalization include not having to fiddle with controls while driving, too much content clutter and being used to having relevant content pushed to them on other digital platforms.

Then, there’s the peacocking. The DTS-sponsored survey finds that four in five vehicle owners say “no-cost listening choices are important and relate to the sentiment that, with so much great broadcast radio and free, discoverable content available, it makes no sense to pay.”

Those at Sirius XM and individuals privy to in-car use of Apple Car Play-friendly apps including iHeartRadio and Audacy (formerly may have something else to say about that.

That’s not to say digital consumption of radio isn’t important. Being able to continue listening to a radio station digitally when the vehicle has gone out of broadcast range is also important. And, compared to their older counterparts, Millennials and Gen Z place greater importance than older demographics on having content relevant to what they listen to “discovered” for them, and having rich visual/textual information about the artist and song they are listening to.