Ford Decides Against Dumping AM Radio
Ford CEO Jim Farley took to social media on Tuesday to announce that the automaker is reversing a decision to remove AM radio from its vehicles. The alleged concern was that all-electric vehicles would interfere with the signal and that listening trends were moving away from the relevant bandwidth. However, opponents noted that localized emergency broadcasts frequently end up on AM radio and that the airwaves likewise tend to be home to political talk shows or religious broadcasts.
“We’ve decided to include it on all 2024 Ford and Lincoln vehicles,” Farley stated on Twitter and LinkedIn. “For any owners of Ford’s EVs without AM broadcast capability, we’ll offer a software update [to restore it.]”
Though it wasn’t just station owners and fans of AM radio that bemoaned the industry’s preference to move away from amplitude modulation. On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers introduced a bill that requested the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require AM in new vehicles.
The “AM for Every Vehicle Act” cites the importance and prevalence of AM radio in rural areas and its historic use in disaster scenarios and emergency broadcasts. According to the Associated Press, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Association of Broadcasters praised the legislation, which was backed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rep. Josh Gottheimer, (D-N.J.), Rep. Tom Kean, Jr., (R-N.J.), Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, (D-Wash.), among others.
Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., one of the bill’s sponsors, has said eight of 20 major automakers including Ford, BMW and Tesla have pulled the band from new vehicles.
“Ford’s reversal reflects an overdue realization about the importance of AM radio, but too many automakers are still going the wrong direction,” Markey said in a written statement Tuesday. He said Congress should still pass the bill to keep access to the band.
Ford removed AM from the 2023 Mustang Mach-e and F-150 Lightning electric pickups after data collected from vehicles showed that less than 5 [percent] of customers listened to it, spokesman Alan Hall said. Electrical interference and reducing cost and manufacturing complexity also played a role.
The company also took it out of the 2024 gasoline-powered Mustang, but will add it back in before any of the muscle cars are delivered, Hall said.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a massive trade group that represents most major automakers, criticized the bill, saying it was unnecessary. It noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Integrated Public Alerts and Warning System can already distribute safety warnings across AM, FM, internet-based and satellite radios and cellular networks.
But things become a bit more complicated if the grid goes down or someone’s driving through a region where internet/cell connectivity is spotty and the above does not address the countless stations that would be impacted by having their channels made inaccessible on modern vehicles. While not nearly as popular as it used to be, AM radio still sees roughly 80 million people listening every month.
It’s also getting tiresome seeing automakers removing features from vehicles and claiming it's a sign of progress. While the industry may see the benefits of forcing customers into connected services that offer enhanced levels of data collection and the prospect of new revenue streams, consumers are growing tired. The downsides of permanent vehicular connectivity are becoming known.
We’ve already seen General Motors taking heat over vowing to eliminate Apple CarPlay from future products. The AM radio snafu feels related and feels like it’s going to be similarly unpopular. Drivers do not want to have preexisting choices stripped away or repackaged and then sold back to them. They want modern vehicles to add features and be superior to what came before or at the very least something approaching the status quo with a lower price tag.
[Image: Proxima Studio/Shutterstock]
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Alliance for Automotive Innovation = Alliance for Feature Deletion
"The company also took it out of the 2024 gasoline-powered Mustang"
• And now we know that the "all-electric vehicles would interfere with the signal" reason wasn't really the reason.