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Automakers Speed HD Radio Adoption

iBiquity Digital says 50+ digital models are coming in 2014

Broadcasters will see elements of iBiquity’s new, larger booth at the spring NAB. This photo was at the recent International CES convention.
Credit: Photo by Leslie Stimson
Approximately 50 new HD Radio receivers are coming out this year, roughly 30 of which will be aftermarket car models.

Kenwood and Pioneer will expand their lines, and many of those models support HD Radio, according to technology developer iBiquity Digital Corp. Alpine, JVC, Clarion and Sony also plan HD Radio receivers in 2014.

All major automakers will include factory-installed HD Radio this year, according to iBiquity. Company President/CEO Bob Struble says the technology is available in nearly a third of new cars and will be installed on half in 2014. More than 200 vehicle brands will include HD Radio this year, half as standard equipment.

To date, about 17.5 million HD Radio receivers have been sold, iBiquity says, with 15 million installed in vehicles. It predicts 7.5 million receivers will be sold in calendar 2014.

Home audio receivers with HD Radio are planned from Denon, Marantz, Yamaha and McIntosh. The Audiovox and Insignia brands are releasing HD Radio tabletops and portables.

Some in the industry who comment on the RW website about stories about HD Radio have questioned statistics from iBiquity. For example, in reaction to the reported 17.5 million, reader “Sam G” wrote: “I don’t know where iBiquity is getting their numbers on existing HD receivers,” which he says are “way, way off. The actual figure is less than 10 million. In addition, I can’t find one HD receiver for sale in my city (top 50 market).” IBiquity has consistently defended its figures.

Asked whether automaker interest in HD Radio has waned, Struble says to the contrary: “No automaker is cutting back on HD.”

Thirty-three automotive brands offer HD Radio audio, traffic or data features. Now that all major automakers have incorporated the technology for the digital AM and FM audio features, Struble says, five OEMs — including Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi — are now using digital broadcasts to deliver traffic, weather or fuel information as well.

Honda, Dodge, Jeep, and Infiniti have launched HD Radio since January 2013, as an option or standard. Some of these brands plan launch additional integrations, according to iBiquity.

Struble says automakers see the benefits of integrating HD Radio into their telematics strategies, which helps iBiquity drive the transition of over-the-air broadcasting to what it hopes will be an all-digital future.

Two service providers, Clear Channel and Nokia’s Here, have built nationwide networks to broadcast real-time traffic and data information using the HD Radio system. Here has partnered with the Broadcaster Traffic Consortium; Clear Channel uses its own radio stations to support its Total Traffic Network.

It has long been part of iBiquity’s pitch to the market that “connected cars” will be common and that broadcasters must not take radio’s historical dominance in the dash for granted. Now automakers are developing embedded Internet modems in vehicles, further making the case for HD conversion, Struble believes.

New data elements of HD Radio like Artist Experience and digital traffic data services “make radio more competitive in the dash,” said Struble. Lately that focus falls on medium- to smaller-market stations. That type of station owner, he feels, is looking for immediate return on investment from the digital conversion.

Struble says more consumer electronics devices are being built without AM/FM radio at all, because that’s what manufacturers believe buyers want. “Everything’s an app now,” and that’s how people want to interact with their devices, he said.

HD Radio implementation is part of a larger trend in which automakers and aftermarket receiver manufacturers are adding services like satellite radio and personalized Internet streams, hoping to sell more cars and electronics.

Mazda, for example, offers HD Radio technology and Clear Channel’s Total Traffic Network to provide free traffic flow Images via digital FM broadcasting on the 2014 Mazda3. Mazda North American Operations President/CEO Jim O’Sullivan said this fall the Mazda3 is the brand’s best-selling vehicle, making the launch of the vehicle’s third generation “that much more important.”

In the redesign, O’Sullivan said, Mazda added in-car technology, including a human-machine-interface system called Mazda Connect, “which offers a slew of audio and connectivity features not expected in the compact car segment.” Partnerships with companies like iBiquity Digital will help Mazda’s success, O’Sullivan said.

IBiquity exhibited at the 2014 International CES. Broadcasters will see elements of iBiquity’s new, larger booth at the spring NAB Show, also in Las Vegas. The booth is modular, and more open, giving the tech developer more flexibility in arranging it.