Forget satellite TV on the move - now Americans are buying cars without radios

Buy a car - you remember, it involved going into a dealer and poring over accessory lists, colour charts and all that stuff? - and there are some things you take for granted these days. Like a sound system.

Just about every new car on the market comes with a radio/CD player these days, but all that is changing in the States, where hard-pressed consumers are now being offered cars shorn of all the luxuries, right down to having no radio as standard.

It's being done in an effort to keep prices down to the point where consumers can afford to buy a new car, and the lead is being taken by the big Japanese names, previously known for loading their vehicles with electronic goodies.

Wires, but no wireless

Cars such as the Nissan Altima 2.5 - nice economical engine, there - and the entry-level Honda Civic DX now come with wiring for a radio, but no entertainment as standard.

Meanwhile the 1.6 Base version of the Nissan Versa Sedan (below) not only lacks a radio, but also does without past US-market must-haves such as central locking, electric windows, automatic transmission, air-conditioning and ABS.

All of that certainly seems to do the trick when it comes to prices: the Versa 1.6 Base starts at under $10,000, or around £7000, before taxes.

And it's a trend being watched carefully by other manufacturers: in the States, you can now buy stripped-out, radio-less versions of vehicles as diverse as the little Smart for Two and the huge (by European standards) Ford F-150 pickup truck.

All of which is good for aftermarket in-car entertainment retailers and fitters: if this trend continues, the old Sunday afternoon sight of a pair of feet sticking out the door of a car, as the owner struggles to connect wires under the dashboard, could be making a comeback.

Watch out for the showers of sparks and the air turning blue, and have those plasters ready for skinned knuckles...

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.