We're a long way from the days when "premium car audio" meant doubling a system's speaker count to four or even eight. These days, even non-premium vehicles can be equipped like rolling sound stages, and automakers have discovered that buyers of all price points are willing to pony up big bucks for high-end branded audio systems.
On Monday at its annual Further trend conference in Dearborn, Michigan, Ford announced that it's partnering with Harman to offer B&O Play-branded audio systems in Ford vehicles globally. According to Harman spokesperson Dawn Geary, "This is the first time the B&O Play brand is coming out in the automotive segment." Created in 2012, B&O Play's offerings have thus far been limited to audio products like speakers and headphones. (The "B&O" refers to Bang & Olufsen, a brand name that will continue to be offered in upscale cars from the likes of Audi and Aston Martin, among others).
Audio systems with high-end branding are proving to be big drivers of new business in car showrooms. According to a January 2016 study by market research firm Ipsos, roughly one-third of car buyers surveyed say that "...audio brand in their next new vehicle will have a significant impact on their purchase consideration." Furthermore, prestige brands like Bose and B&O can have an even bigger effect on consumer behavior. For such names, "...the percentage who indicate the audio brand will have a significant impact on their purchase consideration can rise to as high as 50 percent."
Ford is no stranger to that reality, with audiophile-grade rigs like the 19-speaker Revel Ultima system on offer in its forthcoming Lincoln Continental flagship. Today, you can even get a pretty decent 10-speaker Sony-branded system on its humble Focus compact.
For the moment, Ford and Harman are declining to detail what models will be available with B&O Play-branded stereo options, how much they will cost, and when they will arrive. Further rollout details are promised later this year.