Ford to drop AM radio in new models, except commercial vehicles
Ford Motor Co. plans to stop putting AM radio in new gas-powered and electric vehicles beginning in 2024, including the all-electric Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning pickup, the Detroit Free Press has confirmed.
"We are transitioning from AM radio for most new and updated 2024 models," Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood told the Free Press. "A majority of U.S. AM stations, as well as a number of countries and automakers globally, are modernizing radio by offering internet streaming through mobile apps, FM, digital and satellite radio options. 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."
Commercial vehicles will continue to offer AM radio because of longstanding contract language, Sherwood said.
Drivers often turn to AM radio for live traffic updates and weather reports, as well as emergency communication.
"I don’t know how many companies have dropped AM radio for EVs, but most of the German companies and Volvo have and now Ford," said Mike Ramsey, an analyst with Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner Research Group, which specializes in digital transformation and innovation.
Tesla hasn't offered AM radio in its all-electric vehicles for years.
"In essence, EV motors generate a lot of electromagnetic interference that affects the frequencies of AM radio and make it difficult to get a clear signal," Ramsey said. "It could be shielded, but given the diminishing listening habits to AM, the automakers haven’t chosen to do it. Most of the content there is available through other means, including podcast and internet streaming. In my view, this isn’t that different from automakers discontinuing 8-track players, cassette players and CD players. Technology has advanced. 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."
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 Free Press.
Stellantis spokeswoman Jodi Tinson told the Free Press that its product lineup including Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge and Ram is expected to continue offering AM radio.
Alex Siciliano, senior vice president for communication at the National Association of Broadcasters, said industry leaders are watching the change with concern.
“There’s no question that AM radio plays a critical role in informing Americans and keeping them safe; it is the backbone of the Emergency Alert System. This is why numerous policymakers and FEMA representatives have sounded alarm bells for automakers," Siciliano told the Free Press. "We are certain that Ford does not want to alienate the nearly 48 million Americans who listen to AM radio, and we’ll continue working closely with the Alliance for Automotive Innovation and individual manufacturers to keep this important service in cars.”
Curtis LeGeyt, CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, blogged in March: "Lawmakers and regulators such as Sen. Edward Markey (MA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Nathan Simington have urged automakers to keep AM radio in electric vehicles, stressing the important public safety benefits. AM radio is critical to ensuring information can reach many Americans during times of crisis. Recently, seven former administrators of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), wrote a letter to the Secretary of Transportation stating that if the removal of AM radio from cars continues, it will: '…represent a grave threat to future local, state, and federal disaster response and relief efforts.'"
Broadcast industry leaders and radio executives are pushing automakers to keep AM radio in vehicles
"With its unique ability to reach a wide geographic area, AM broadcasting offers many Americans struggling with poor, or non-existent, cellular and broadband coverage a chance to stay connected," LeGeyt wrote. "The car is often the only source of power and news for many in times of emergency."
Ford isn't alone in abandoning AM radio
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, criticized Ford and others in March for discontinuing AM radio. He highlighted these developments in a news release:
Ford, BMW, Mazda, Polestar, Rivian, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Volvo — have removed broadcast AM radio from their electric vehicles.
Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Lucid, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Stellantis, Subaru, and Toyota — still maintain access to broadcast AM radio in their vehicles. T
Mercedes-Benz and General Motors, refused to provide individual responses and instead relied on a response from the industry trade group, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation.
Markey, a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, as well as the subcommittee on communication, media and broadband, is pushing hard on the issue. He has urged automakers to invest in technology to address the issue of interference in electric vehicles.
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“Broadcast AM radio is an essential part of our emergency alert infrastructure ... far too many automakers are ignoring the critical safety benefits of AM radio,” Markey said in his news release. “Although many automakers suggested that other communication tools — such as internet radio — could replace broadcast AM radio, in an emergency, drivers might not have access to the internet and could miss critical safety information. The truth is that broadcast AM radio is irreplaceable. As the auto industry rightfully replaces the internal combustion engine with electric batteries, I will continue to work to ensure that automakers maintain access to broadcast AM radio in all their vehicles.”
Veteran analyst John McEloy, host of "Autoline After Hours" webcast and podcast said automakers don't need to get rid of AM radio.
"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 to they don’t get any interference."
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Contact Phoebe Wall Howard: 313-618-1034 or email@example.com. Read more about Ford. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Ford to drop AM radio in new gas-powered, electric vehicles