MYGIG: The Story Of An Infotainment System

by | May 28, 2020 | Articles

Parts sharing is a common practice in the automotive industry, where white label solutions from companies you’ve never heard of end up in the cheapest subcompacts and the priciest exotics. While many of those parts are gaskets and bolts you’ll never see, there’s one piece of technology that’s shown up relatively unchanged dead center in the cockpit of battered Dodge rental cars and Ferrari’s high-tech grand tourer. This is the story of MyGig.

The last decade has seen dramatic changes to vehicle infotainment systems, with the last of the factory-installed cassette players giving way to gesture control and the integration of numerous cameras. It’s almost impossible to sell a mainstream passenger vehicle without a modern infotainment option and many even offer over-the-air updates to keep them up-to-date as new features are released.

Still, a few of the older systems endure.

A truly amazing press photo from Chrysler of the system from when it launched.

One of these systems is the MyGig infotainment system, available in the outgoing Dodge Grand Caravan you can still find new on dealer lots. While this system is out-of-date today, it was actually one of the first modern infotainment options offered by a domestic manufacturer. While the competition was still selling tape decks, the straightforward design and easy integration of numerous tasks put MyGig-equipped vehicles at the forefront of technology. 

A look at the system’s internals from an FCC filing.

The MyGig infotainment system debuted in 2007 on the Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Nitro, and Jeep Wrangler. At the time, it was a fairly revolutionary system as it offered an array of advanced features such as a hard drive for MP3 storage, along with DVD playback, and navigation integrated directly into the unit.

Chrysler had offered some of these features in the past, but never as part of such a complete package. What changed? They found an operating system that could bring it all together.

The QNX Operating System was created by Gordon Bell and Dan Dodge (no relation) in the 1980s in a small office next to a strip center shoe store in Kanata, Canada. They entered the automotive market in the early 2000s after the release of QNX Neutrino, which was used as the operating system for vehicle telematics systems. QNX was purchased by Harman International in 2004, who took the QNX Neutrino even further and eventually developed the QNX CAR application that’s now been used in tens of millions of cars with over 45 OEMs, according to the company.

The rare-ish split controls version for the Dodge Journey.

The MyGig version was one of the bigger implementations of that QNX platform at the time and surely helped them reach millions of consumers as most Dodge and Chrysler vehicles featured it by 2011. Considering how often these vehicles ended up in rental fleets there’s a good chance you’ve interacted with MyGig before. One of the big selling points as it was released was the modularity of the system and the capability to upgrade for new formats or features after the vehicle left the showroom.

Since QNX was now a Harman product, it’s no surprise that many MyGig units were produced by Harman-Becker, though you may be surprised to find out that Mitsubishi also made a large number. According to Allpar, the easy way to tell who manufactured one of these is to look for the face icon on the top of the device. Harman-Becker produced units had the icon on the top right, while ones built by Mitsubishi placed the icon on the top left.

The original and infamous Ferrari integration of MyGig in the Ferrari California.

The MyGig infotainment units are split into two general types, with the 430 and 430N being the entry level units while the 730N is the premium version (the N behind the model number denotes that the unit is equipped with navigation). These units were also split into a variety of subunits based on the features they offered and the destination market. The Media Center 430 version was offered in REN and RBZ variants for the North American market and REZ for the rest of the world. The 430N was similar to the 430 but added navigation and split the screen from the main unit. It was only offered in this split version in the Dodge Journey and showed up as REU for North America and REX/RE1 for the rest of the world. This was the most basic version that did not feature navigation. The 730N (the most advanced version with navigation) was offered as the RER for North America, REW for Europe and REP for the rest of the world. 

In addition to the standard Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep applications, MyGig devices also appeared in a Volkswagen, a Lancia, and two Ferraris. The Volkswagen and Lancia versions are simple to explain as they appeared in the Routan and Voyager, which were badge-engineered versions of the Dodge Grand Caravan.

The Lancia version because, frankly, you can’t have enough Lanica.

The Ferrari version is a little more out of place as it was wildly different than any of the other vehicles it was installed in and, while it seems that could easily be explained by Fiat and Chrysler coming together, the head unit was actually displayed in the California at its reveal in 2008 a year before Fiat purchased a stake in Chrysler. In addition to that, FCC documents for the Ferrari version of the head unit were published in November of 2007 and actually used pictures of one of the Dodge versions in the documents, which means that there was likely some sort of licensing agreement in place much earlier.

The Ferrari versions also appeared in the Ferrari FF and are mostly the same internally as those used in Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles with the main difference being that the revision number wasn’t printed on the face of the device and later versions were painted silver instead of black. The Ferrari versions can be recognized by their FCC numbers, with the early ones displaying QNG-BE2726 on their labels while later ones display QNG-BE2728. Most early versions of the Ferrari unit were actually built in the United States at a Harman facility in Washington, Missouri while later versions were built in Queretaro, Mexico as the Missouri facility closed after a Harman restructuring in 2010.

A photo from the Ferrari FCC filing.

Although they are similar internally, the external aesthetics and vehicle integration still make the Ferrari units somewhat distinct from the domestic version and that Ferrari pedigree means that replacement units retail for around $1,500 on the used market, in comparison to the domestic version which go for around $300. It’s maybe possible to reprogram the domestic units to work in the Ferraris but it would require dealer software and I don’t see a lot of Ferrari owners going out of their way to make it so obvious to the world the humble origins of what’s in their dash.

Original pricing for the units varied widely, with the REZ units installed in cars such as the Avenger and Sebring having an original retail price of $789 while the top end units installed in the Chrysler 300 and Jeep Grand Cherokee for the Middle East and African markets retailed for $3,330. The unique unit in the Dodge Journey fell into the middle of that price range with the computing portion of the unit retailing for $1,890. Original MSRP is not available for the Ferrari units, but replacement prices range from $5,115 to $12,670 depending on type and region. The highest cost version of the device from Ferrari comes in at only $4,000 less than the new cost of an entire Dodge Caliber in 2009, which also offered the device as an option.

While common today, the iPod integration, Bluetooth connectivity, and Sirius satellite radio were some of the notable features that were included in this device. Sirius not only provided satellite radio, but traffic information to the navigation app as well.

The Volkswagen version of the system.

The hard drive is also a key component of MyGig and reflected a time when it seemed like the future would be storing a large amount of Mp3s locally as opposed to on a phone or accessing it from the cloud. This was not a common feature on most cars of the era and required the installation of a 20 GB Hitachi hard drive, which was later replaced by a 30 GB Samsung hard drive. These were basically laptop spinning-disk hard drives with upgrades to withstand cold temperatures. Being a relatively new integration of the technology, the Hitachi droves have been reported to crash.

The premium 730N variants later received an upgraded Hitachi hard drive that featured 40 GB of storage and seems to have fared better. Owners figured out ways to upgrade these drives early by copying the image to larger capacity laptop drives but found issues in cold climates as the spinning disks would freeze in very low temperatures. Aftermarket repair companies such as MyGig-Disk eventually started offering the “automotive grade” drives along with other repair services.

There are not many Ferraris with rear set entertainment as an option.

Modifications for these MyGig devices quickly became popular with the most well known being the MyGig LockPick Pro. This device originally showed up in order to allow unlock of DVD playback while in motion (we will leave it to your imagination as to why you might want that), but expanded from there to include a variety of features such as controlling the cameras and being able to make navigation changes while in motion.

All of the MyGig units were capable of running entertainment systems in the rear of a vehicle, but those only appeared in vehicles like minivans for obvious reasons. The best iteration of rear seat entertainment my be the Ferrari FF. The units were advanced for the time as they allowed the passenger in the front seat to listen to an MP3 from the hard drive, while those in the back could watch a movie on their screens at the same time. 

Like any new product, early units had some small issues mostly related to buggy software that seemed to have mostly been solved with firmware updates. Later units featured more robust hard drives and software and updates have been released on a regular basis. They are also fairly accessible for those that want to try to repair one on their own as the items such as the screen, hard drive, and DVD player are all fairly modular and come out with a torx driver if they need to be replaced. There are many individual parts options available in the aftermarket with new screens costing just over $100 and even small items such as the USB cover available for around $10.

A classic late version from the Walter P. Chrysler Edition Town & Country

These MyGig units will disappear from new cars once the last Grand Caravan is sold but QNX, which is now owned by BlackBerry-parent Research In Motion, lives on. It’s appeared in over 150 million vehicles and is now powering many modern vehicle operations, from infotainment to securing over-the-air updates. 

While we are moving to more advanced and integrated systems, it can be fun to find relics of the past when hopping into a new car and the familiarity of these MyGig units is probably comforting to those video crews, race teams, families, and bands that have rented hundreds or thousands of Grand Caravans for their gigs and vacations.