I heard in the news recently that Pioneer is getting out of the flat panel TV business and returning to it’s core business of selling aftermarket car radios… I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not.

Cars have been undergoing a transformation lately, and one the the things being transformed is the audio system. Traditionally, the car radio occupied a hole around 2 by 8 inches in the dash. This is called a DIN opening. Some upscale cars at first wanted to put more stuff in their radios, which led to the double DIN opening, or around 4 by 8 inches. Companies that sell aftermarket radios have traditionally made their wares to these sizes.

But, car companies being what they are, and progress being what it is, this is all over. The audio system now is spread all over the car. (This is not true for all cars, but increasingly so..) The picture above is a 2005 Saab 9-3 dash. At the bottom of the picture are the radio controls, and just the controls. The radio display is the other module at the top of the dash by the windsheild, and the radio itself in buried deep in the dash. (There actually is more, The Woofer amp is under the drivers seat, and the other amps are in the trunk.) No DIN openings here.

And it’s spreading. The current trend in radios is a control head that you see in the dash, and this usually incorportates the HVAC controls also. The guts of the radio is buried out of the way, and the display is also separate. This is not good news for the aftermarket radio industry. The DIN and double DIN openings are slowly disappearing. And so far, I’ve seen no response from the aftermarket radio industry. They have no solution to this problem so far.

The other loser in this scenario is the guy who bought the car. So far his audio options are pretty much fixing what’s in the car. You can use your ipod and whatever, but that solution relies on the factory radio working. The factory audio systems have proved to be pretty durable, but if a replacement unit is necessary, your going to wish you had those DIN openings in your dash….