Desperate Automakers Ask Apple for Aid

Dennis Faas's picture

With the North American automotive industry in a tailspin at the moment, automakers are turning to the latest and most popular technology to regain appeal. And, for anyone not stuck in a cave or buried by a landslide for the last five years, the clearest way to catch a techie's eye is to flash an Apple iPod -- the industry's current undisputed "Golden Toy".

That's exactly what Ford, General Motors, and even Mazda are doing, as they work with engineers to integrate Apple's wares into future audio systems.

Isn't this technology already out there?

At this time, most iPod owners are forced to spend extra money on peripherals to make their digital music players compatible with car stereos. These accessories, like the iTrip or anything that plugs into the standard cigarette lighter, often cost the average consumer $20, with some of the more extravagant units shipping for over $100.

However, this recent announcement by Apple outlines a future relationship between the iPod maker and the three noted automakers, offering "seamless integration" for models released as soon as 2007. (Source:

Much of the research on the demand for digital music in vehicles has been launched by automakers themselves. A recent analysis by Ford discovered that the interest in digital music players amongst consumers by 2009 will be double what it was just last year.

The growing popularity of digital music has led Ford to develop its own system dubbed "TripTunes Advanced". When installed for an additional price, Ford's system allows drivers to charge the iPod in the glove compartment while controlling its play from the steering wheel or radio. Expect to see TripTunes Advanced in Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury models in the coming year.

What about the competition?

General Motors is making an effort to trump Ford and its study by offering technology specifically designed for the iPod. GM will integrate the iPod with standard XM radio controls, allowing for one easy interface between satellite radio and digital music storage. (Source:

Mazda remains hush on their plans, but judging from sales probably doesn't have the same need to radically change any of its future audio plans (unlike a rather desperate Ford and GM).

Despite the news, Ford, GM, and Mazda are hardly the first to show interest in iPod integration. European car manufacturers Volvo, Mercedes, and BMW announced their plans to work with Apple as early as Winter, 2005. (Source:

Still, with the way the American consumer has been treating Ford and GM, "better late than never" certainly applies.

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