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Detroit’s Big Three committed to FM/AM radio.


The digital dashboard is bringing all sorts of things to drivers, but it won’t push FM/AM radio out of the front seat.  That’s according to the big three automakers.  General Motors, Ford and Chrysler each tell Inside Radio they’re committed to keeping broadcast radio inside their dashboards — and some are even doubling down on their commitment to it.

“We have no plans to get rid of them because of their value for our customers,” Chrysler spokesman Eric Mayne says.  He points out they’ve just announced plans to begin installing HD Radio as standard on some Dodge Ram pickups.  It’s a similar message from General Motors where executive say they have “no near term plans” to stop installing broadcast radio in cars. “While we are excited about the possibilities of internet radio services and other emerging services, we understand that AM/FM radio is still a significant source of news and entertainment,” chief infotainment officer Phil Abram says. “In fact, it is an expected feature.”

At Ford, the story is similar.  Is AM more at risk?  “There are no plans to ‘disband’ the AM frequency,” spokesman Alan Hall says.  There are other reasons to keep broadcast radio in the car too. Chrysler uses that same antenna to get traffic reports via FM RDBS to the dashboard systems.

Automakers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and roll out digital dashboard systems, which may make radio look like it has lost its luster.  But in reality, the big automakers say their research shows drivers still expect FM/AM radio. They also like the free content it brings.  And it’s remarkably cheap and takes up little dashboard real estate in comparison.  The hardware costs an average of less than $10.  Instead it’s the CD player that’s being phased-out.

Some Chrysler models are making it optional and one model, the Viper, won’t even allow for a CD unit to be installed.  But Chrysler spokesman Eric Mayne says broadcast radio should get used to having its satellite cousin close by, too. “Our customers have communicated an appetite for satellite radio,” he says.  Chrysler became the first automaker last April to provide Sirius XM Radio’s expanded suite of Spanish-language channels in its 2013 cars.  Mayne says the automaker is happy with the response from customers.

At America’s No. 4 automaker Toyota, AM/FM radio remains in the dashboard and will do so for the foreseeable future.  But VP of advanced technology John Bucci told Inside Radio last year he can imagine a day in his lifetime when cellular networks are reliable enough to put no-radio into the realm of possibilities.  “But cellular-delivered content has in and of itself the challenges of drop outs, signal strength, and other connectivity issues,” he said.   As things stand today, Bucci says those connectivity issues make it a sure bet FM/AM radio will remain in the dashboard for the foreseeable future.


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