LONDON — Covid-19 has had a significant impact on most — if not all — industries, and the automotive industry is no exception, with showrooms canceled, car sale numbers dipping and the production line all but coming to a halt. With factories now reopening and the industry slowly starting to recover, we brought together four experts from our automotive network to discuss the full extent of the crisis and the future of radio in the car post Covid-19.
According to Xperi’s Joe D’Angelo, car sales are expected to drop by approximately 18–25% in light of the pandemic. That said, supply chains, manufacturing and sales are expected to return to regular, pre-pandemic levels around September-October.
D’Angelo reports that automotive manufacturers are now increasingly focusing on the security and reliability of the systems that are being integrated into their connected vehicles — a trend that started before the pandemic and is expected to continue in the future, as the importance of in-car services continues to grow.
According to Xavier Filiol of Radioline OEMs are now prioritizing the user experience of the driver, looking to offer a seamless and visually appealing experience with the dashboard that can be compared to a mobile or connected TV.
Given the impact and long-lasting effect of the pandemic, OEMs have had to put their projects on hold, and according to Xavier, they may have no choice but turn their focus to the next generation of connected cars – one that will revolve around connectivity, interactivity and a hybrid experience, a big part of which will be DAB+ digital radio.
Radioplayer’s Michael Hill highlights that the pandemic has in many ways reminded consumers of the importance of radio as a medium — a live, linear stream of audio content with a human connection, that brings news, information, music and diversion — all of which have been essential over the last three months.
Between February and March, Radioplayer observed an increase of 50% in its number of users.
According to Hill, the pandemic coupled with an evident lack of resources for the industry will result in auto manufacturers looking to simplify their technological services and reduce the number of partners they work with.
RadioDNS’ Nick Piggott reported that automotive companies are now looking to strategically reinvent themselves after having overcome the initial hurdle brought about the crisis. He points to the growing demand for second-hand cars as an indication of people’s willingness to avoid public transport, and expects this trend to be reflected in new car sales in the near future — more importantly, the growing popularity of cars will lead to more people listening to more radio in their vehicles.
WorldDAB’s Rosie Smith supports this view. She states that the recovery of the auto industry will be fast-forwarded by the fact that the car is now viewed as a “safe space.” Smith, who notes that automotive manufacturers have been more accessible than ever before throughout the pandemic, claims that local radio will also play an important role in helping consumers return to the high-street, support local businesses and adapt to evolving consumer habits.
The current crisis has undoubtedly had an impact on the automotive sector, with OEMs now having to deal with significant budget cuts and disruptions in the supply chain, amongst other things. That said, the pandemic has also helped underline the importance of radio, both in and out of the car. Evidently, short term planning within the automotive industry will revolve around overcoming the hurdles of the crisis. However, there is a certain level of optimism and general willingness within the industry to cooperate, look ahead and lay the groundwork for the generations of cars to come, a key component of which will be digital radio.
The author is communications manager for WorldDAB.