Chrysler Pacifica buyers now have the option of installing a 6-disc DVD changer developed by Mitsubishi Electric Automotive Inc. (MEAA).The ‘first of its kind in the world’ unit was an offshoot of MEAA’s 6- CD changer development.
“We had a demand for a CD changer that wasn’t so deep,” says Mike Antrim, executive account manager audio/video & communications for MEAA. “That’s what drove us to develop the mechanism, and once we developed the mechanism we realized that we could do DVDs too.”
Antrim says that one of the biggest issues when designing an instrument panel is the mounting depths of the radio products, which tend to interfere with the running of heating and air-conditioning ducts.
|Instead of using trays, the CD/DVDs in MEAA’s changer are separated by small discs that ride up and down a center spindle.|
Discs are inserted directly into the mechanism and pulled in by rubber loading rollers until they contact a scissors jack. Once the disc is all the way in, an arm grabs the front holding it firmly. One of the six spacers locks to the top of the disc as it is stored in the mechanism.
The six discs are now sandwiched between the spacers. When a disc is selected, the center shaft rotates, picking up the cam figures on the spacers, which move the discs up and down. When the mechanism finds the disc it wants, the shaft separates and the optics come in and clamp on the disc, spin it and play it.
“This is something that we have patented,” says Antrim. “We think we’ll have a marketing advantage for some time to come.”
The two sets of laser optics, developed by Sony specifically for this program, will play DVD-Video, DVD-R, CD-DA, CD-R, CD-RW and CD-Text discs. The system is compatible with both North American NTSC standards and European PAL standards.
“ On Pacifica, the changer slots in underneath the radio at the bottom of the center stack. The $395 changer interfaces with the vehicle’s audio system through the serial bus and can be operated by the controls on the radio. The system also includes a remote control unit for the back seat and two sets of wireless headphones.
MEAA developed an in-dash 4-CD changer for the automaker a few years back. Antrim says that Chrysler is always looking for ways to distinguish itself in the minivan segment, more so now that the competition in that market has gotten stiffer.
“We came to them with this great idea,” he adds, “and Chrysler said ‘let’s do it.’” We developed the system specifically for them. Right now, they’re our only customer, but we do expect to get more.”
MEAA manufactures the units at its Sanda, Japan, facility and started shipping them to DCX’s Windsor assembly plant in January. The system will be offered across the board on all Chrysler minivans this summer.
Chrysler’s original forecast was for a 15 percent penetration, but Antrim says that the figures are actually closer to the 20 to 25 percent range.
Antrim says that the two-year program had a price tag of about $1 million with tooling for the chassis, base plate and circuit boards accounting for about half the cost. Where does in-car entertainment go from here?
“I do believe that three years from now you’ll see radio head units that have both a CD and DVD player,” Antrim says. “DVD entertainment is catching on real fast,” he continues, “and there’s always a market for the most high-end systems.” Antrim says that typically, in a minivan or vehicle with three rows of seats, the younger children often occupy the middle seats and others in the third row.
Without being specific, he says that there are already vehicles in the concept stage that will have separate screens for both the second and third row.