Over the course of this year I have road tested about 50 different models and during those experiences I learned some very important lessons. Although I never knew how much I needed them before this year, I learned that I can’t live my life properly without Bluetooth and a USB port in my car.
So why is Bluetooth connectivity for a phone and USB/iPod connectivity for an audio system so important? Because they both keep drivers from looking down in their lap, either when they are dialing a cell phone or changing songs on their iPod.
But don’t most cars nowadays come with auxiliary input jacks for your iPod as standard? Isn’t that good enough? Well, quite frankly it isn’t. An auxiliary input jack just feeds the sound through a vehicle’s speakers but does not give you any control through the radio head unit on the dash. As a result you are forced to look down at the iPod screen when you want to change a song, album or playlist.
Surprisingly, automakers like BMW and Mercedes actually charge extra for both USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity. This fact is truly shameful as only one automaker really has made it a priority to standardize this technology. It just so happens that this forward thinking firm is none other than Hyundai/Kia. Yes, the same Hyundai and Kia that dominates the “budget” end of the car market.
If Kia can offer Bluetooth and USB connectivity as standard on the economical Forte and Soul, why can’t luxury car brands do the same? Don’t they have a much bigger profit margin to play with? As an example, if you buy a BMW 328i you will have to fork out $750 for Bluetooth (as part of a package) and $400 for an iPod/USB adaptation system. Does the term highway robbery mean anything in Munich?
Granted, I am pretty young still (35 years old) so I carry an iPod and cell phone with me everywhere I go. And as I drive around a lot I need Bluetooth so I am always reachable in the car. In fact, I find myself making many more phone calls from the car than from my house. Hey, it’s a great way to multi-task and pass the time in traffic.
So what can we learn from Hyundai/Kia’s decision to offer Bluetooth and USB/iPod connectivity even to buyers of their most basic models? Well, part of the reason is because Hyundai/Kia appeals to a young demographic that wants inexpensive, efficient, high quality transportation but doesn’t want to give up their electronic toys.
Now every marketing department at every automaker knows that what you really want is to hook people into your brand when they are young. That way, as they age and become more affluent they will buy more expensive models from your company. Just look at how that worked with baby boomers and Toyota. Let’s just say the launch of luxury arm Lexus was not done on a whim.
So, if you have an auxiliary input jack for your iPod in your new car don’t use it. Looking down at your iPod screen is just as dangerous as texting while driving. And with places like California banning the use of cell phones in your car, it appears that Bluetooth is not so much a luxury anymore as a necessity.