Mainstream media is beginning to report what the radio trades have been for a while now: AM radio in new vehicles is in the crosshairs.
The Detroit Free Press, a daily newspaper in the heart of auto manufacturing country, recently reported that Ford is eliminating AM radio broadcast capability in most of its new, gas-powered and electric 2024 models. That’s nothing new to those closely following the developments, but it does give a glimpse into how others outside the broadcast industry are reacting to the news.
For instance, Mike Ramsey, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Research Group, told the Free Press that the Ford decision isn’t surprising to him. “In my view, this isn’t that different from automakers discontinuing 8-track players, cassette players and CD players. Technology has advanced,” Ramsey told the newspaper.
The analyst, who tracks digital transformation and innovation, dismisses the argument of AM broadcasters and NAB that AM radio is a lifesaving technology that should remain the car. “The idea that it is a critical safety channel is a bit suspect given that almost all critical communication now is sent through mobile phones,” he said.
The report reiterated Ford’s stance that, since AM radio is now available through internet streaming via mobile apps and other digital services in its vehicles, the elimination of the OTA service is a non-story. Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood told the newspaper: “Ford will continue to offer these alternatives for customers to hear their favorite AM radio music, news and podcasts as we remove amplitude modulation — the definition of AM in this case — from most new and updated models we bring to market.” That’s the same statement that Ford gave Ars Technica earlier and that Radio World has quoted previously.
[Read more stories about the future of AM radio in cars]
The “Motor City” newspaper, which regularly covers the Detroit-based auto industry, said radio executives in the broadcast industry are rushing to the defense of terrestrial AM radio. The 1,000 word story included a quote from veteran auto analyst John McEloy, host of “Autoline After Hours” webcast and podcast, in favor of keeping AM radio in new vehicles.
“It’s happening because automakers would love to get rid of the cost of an AM radio,” he told the Free Press. “Some of them, like Ford, are using EVs as an excuse to get rid of it. GM shields its AM radios in its electric cars so they don’t get any interference.”
Automakers claim EV batteries create large amounts of electromagnetic interference that affects the frequencies in the AM band and makes those signals difficult to listen to. The tally of automakers cancelling out AM radio in their new electric vehicles includes Ford, BMW, Mazda, Polestar, Rivian, Tesla, Volkswagen and Volvo.
However, the recent revelation that Ford is eliminating AM radio from gas-powered cars in addition to EVs has taken the alarm from AM broadcasters to another level, observers say. The Ford spokesman said the company’s new commercial vehicles will continue to offer AM radio because of longstanding contractual obligations, according to the Free Press story.
The Detroit Free Press reports that neither General Motors nor Stellantis has confirmed plans to change AM access in its 2024 vehicles. “We are evaluating AM radio on future vehicles and not providing any further details at this time,” GM spokesman Stuart Fowle told the newspaper.