Turn It Up: The Evolution of Music In Vehicles

September 4th, 2018 by

For a long time now, even back to one of the earliest automobiles, music and vehicles have gone hand in hand. How boring would it be without music playing while you’re driving? At the very least, playing in the background or during long road trips so you don’t fall asleep at the wheel. Continue reading to learn about the evolution of music playing in vehicles. The tech keeps evolving, but the music never disappears!

History Of Music In Vehicles

  • Radio:

According to PC Mag, radios were first being introduced in vehicles in the early 1930s. Inventors installed AM radios in American vehicles and apparently was first tested in a Studebaker.







  • Eight-Track:

What many people don’t know is that Ford actually played a big roll in the evolution of eight-tracks in vehicles. Ampex, of Ford Motor Company, along with General Motors, Motorola, RCA, and Lear Jet Corp, all joined forces to introduce a factory-installed eight-track player in three of its 1966 models: Mustang, Thunderbird, and Lincoln. By the 1967 model year, all of Ford’s vehicles offered the tape player as an upgrade option.

Thanks to Ford’s backing, the eight-track became more popular than the complicated four-track option and cassette tapes before it. It was a new way to enjoy music with better tape quality and longer playing times. Today, eight-tracks are typically known for terrible sound quality, but they were the only way you could actually choose what to listen to while you were driving.









  • Cassette:

The tape deck quickly pushed the eight-track out of the way in 1970, and it was an invention that was much longer-lived than its predecessor. The early tape players were pretty tough on the plastic music devices, leaving many people worried about their tapes being “eaten.” Eventually, Maxell based an ad campaign in the early 80s stating that their tapes were strong enough to withstand any potential damage.











  • CD Player:

Eight-tracks, cassettes, and radio didn’t stay popular for long when CD players were introduced in every vehicle’s dashboard. However, the CD player competed with the cassette player for quite some time.

Physical CD’s were on the market since 1982, but CD players weren’t popular in vehicle’s until the world’s first CD player, the CDX-1, debuted in the 1987 Lincoln Town Car.

It wasn’t until the 90’s that the CD player was finally becoming the more dominant choice in vehicles, especially with the invention of portable walkmans.








  • Early 2000s Tech:

Ever since these groundbreaking technologies kicked-off the vehicle music industry back in the day, new ways to listen to music has been constantly evolving in vehicles. In the early 2000s up to 2010, vehicles have had options of internet radio, satellite radio, USB, Bluetooth, in-dash memory cards, etc.







  • Today’s Tech:

In current times, music has never been more accessible with operating systems such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto! If music isn’t your sound of choice, now there are countless podcasts on a variety of different topics, on different platforms like Spotify or Apple Music. We’ve come such a long way!








The Numbers

At the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, Ford announced a new, high-end audio system that will be released in Ford vehicles sometime in the near future. They also had some interesting vehicle music facts for everyone:

  • The car is the place where the largest percentage of people listen to music
  • Roughly 7/10 people between the ages 13 and 24  listen to music in the car and nearly 8/10 drivers over the age of 45
  • 44% of consumers connect a device to their car’s sound system to listen to music, however, the radio still dominates
  • Nearly half of consumers would like better audio quality in the car

It’s interesting that even though vehicles are always evolving with musical technology, the radio is still the most popular way to enjoy music.

The Future

If you’re reading this blog in 2040 (if the internet still exists), I’m sure you’re laughing at all this old technology. Music tech will forever be changing and improving in the future and how we listen to music in vehicles is no exception. For now, we can’t wait to experience Ford’s new high-end audio system they’re hinting at for their new models.    


Posted in News, Vehicles