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IBiquity: Ray Experienced a Bump in the Road

Struble responds to Tom’s struggle to buy a factory in-dash HD Radio receiver for his Ford

In the Aug. 11 issue of Radio World, Tom Ray, vice president/corporate director of engineering for Buckley Broadcasting/WOR Radio, New York, and an RW contributor, wrote a first-person experience article about his struggles to obtain a factory in-dash HD Radio receiver for his new Ford.

Radio World invited iBiquity President/CEO Bob Struble to respond:

When Tom Ray talks about his concerns with the HD Radio rollout, we listen. There has been no bigger proponent of digital radio technology, and HD Radio technology would not have gotten off the ground without his efforts. We have an active, productive dialog with Tom on these matters.

Tom’s experiences at the Ford dealership are disappointing. We believe they reflect the growing pains which often occur when companies launch new technologies. Tom hit the lot as factory installed HD Radio receivers were just launching.

Ford is implementing a rolling launch of the technology, so as new 2011 models hit the show floor at various times in 2010, they are coming out with HD Radio receivers. When Tom shopped, HD Radio technology was only available in the Super Duty trucks and Mustangs.

Had he been able to hold out with his old Explorer for another couple months, he would have been able to purchase an Escape with a factory installed HD Radio receiver as these vehicles hit dealerships the first week of August. Other 2011 model year Ford vehicles that have launched with HD Radio Technology include the Taurus, Fusion, Flex and E-Series. Lincoln, Ford’s premium brand, currently offers HD Radio Technology in their MKS and MKT lines.

More Ford and Lincoln vehicles will arrive with HD Radio receivers as the 2011 model years become available. In most cases, HD Radio Technology is included in the voice activated navigation units. In the near future, cars with the MyFord and MyLincoln Touch premium audio system will also include the technology.

It certainly would have helped if the dealer personnel were better educated on HD Radio Technology. Again, these are growing pains, in my view. We have a solid dealer training program in place and have integrated our training material into Ford’s 2011 model year dealer training initiatives, but with more than 6,000 dealerships in the U.S., these efforts will take time.

Ford has done a lot to educate their personnel and consumers on the benefits of HD Radio Technology, including comprehensive treatment in owner’s manuals. I have also listed below several Web-based HD Radio informational pieces from Ford.

More From Ford Ford websites that describe, mention or include HD Radio Technology: (Once page loads, click on “HD Radio™ Technology” under “Technology” section to play HD Radio Video created by Ford for Training Dealers and Ford Owners) (Ford video posted on YouTube, same as 1 above) prospects

No one can question Tom’s dedication to advancing radio into the digital age after reading of his efforts to install an aftermarket HD Radio solution in his new car — he should get some sort of award. Increased electronic integration in cars has made it virtually impossible in some cases to install any aftermarket radios, with or without HD Radio technology.

That is why overall sales in this segment have plummeted (although HD Radio receiver sales in car aftermarket have skyrocketed). That is also why it is so critical to get HD Radio receivers factory installed in cars.

And the news on that front has never been better. In 2010, 15 different automakers are offering HD Radio receivers in their cars across 86 different vehicle lines. Of those, the technology is standard on 36 vehicle lines. OEM receiver unit sales will more than double this year, with many more exciting launch announcements in the queue.

In fact, as I joked with Tom, it’s ironic that his negative experience happened at a time when the consumer rollout of HD Radio technology is stronger than it has ever been. We are seeing dramatic receiver sales increases across all segments — OEM auto, consumer electronics, and the new portable HD Radio category.

Overall sales of HD Radio receivers will more than double in 2010, and that is on top of a doubling from 2008 to 2009. Can anyone point to any other facet of AM/FM that has seen this sort of growth over the last several years?

So we feel the overall progress and prospects for HD Radio technology are bright. But there will be some bumps in the road, and unfortunately, our good friend Tom Ray experienced one. We are committed to working with him and all our partners to push the technology forward, and to make these negative experiences fewer and farther between.