Spotify’s abandoned Car Thing drives e-waste

You might not have heard about Spotify’s Car Thing, but it’s the latest example of tech companies reneging on what they have marketed to consumers and creating more environmental waste.

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Often, you buy a new electronic device, but after using it for a little while, it just stops working or all you get is an error message. Despite the fact that the device is working properly, the online support it depends on has ended, and the product can no longer do what it was made to do. Now, it’s another piece of electronic waste. 

That’s what is happening with Spotify’s Car Thing, an accessory that allows easier music control on older cars, and what companies could make happen to any device which depends on the internet. Spotify announced it will end support for its car dashboard accessory just three years after launching it. This is the latest example of tech companies ending support and instantly creating electronic waste in the process. It serves as a reminder that we need a better solution for dealing with hardware when the manufacturer loses interest.

Spotify, and any company disappointed with its sales, has the right to discontinue any products. But the music streamer’s recommendation to customers who bought their product as little as two years ago — to “dispos[e] of your device following local electronic waste guidelines” — is a slap in the face.

The people who paid good money for Car Thing deserve better. Spotify should make tools available for those consumers so they can keep using the devices. 

Spotify could also view its Car Thing experience as an unforeseen opportunity—to set an example for the rest of the technology industry about how to repurpose hardware and keep it out of the waste stream.

Across the United States, people get rid of more than 500 pounds of electronic waste each second, which is more than 16,000 jumbo jets’ worth of e-waste every year. That’s an apt comparison, because the electronics industry causes as much climate pollution as the aviation industry. Spotify says it “want[s] to be part of the solution” to climate change, but forcing customers to junk working electronics adds to the problem.

Spotify is far from the only manufacturer prematurely ending support for electronics and pushing us into a whirlpool of product replacement. Next year, Microsoft is ending support for 400 million PCs that can’t upgrade to Windows 11. iPhones use software locks to pair commonly replaced parts, so that replacing them properly requires Apple’s permission. Tesla’s software rejects some third-party accessories. Manufacturers increasingly use software to lock us into only using our tech in ways that just-so-happen to generate the most profits for them.

When manufacturers end support, they should be required to share the software that keeps our devices running. If it’s not economically feasible for them to keep supporting something, why penalize consumers who trusted them? They should share the tools needed for the community of consumers and fixers to keep using the products. Software shouldn’t be the reason we throw out tech that still works.

Tell Spotify they Spotify should make tools available to make it easy for consumers to keep using Car Thing.


Lucas Gutterman

Director, Designed to Last Campaign, PIRG

Lucas leads PIRG’s Designed to Last campaign, fighting against obsolescence and e-waste and winning concrete policy changes that extend electronic consumer product lifespans and hold manufacturers accountable for forcing upgrades or disposal.