Ford Yields to Pressure, Pledges to Install AM Radio in New Vehicles After All
In response to public and political pressure, the Ford Motor Company has announced that it will keep installing AM radio in new vehicles after all.
Previously, the manufacturer had been on record as saying there was no compelling need to maintain the AM band in any of its forthcoming models — a stance that other carmakers had taken with electric cars but not extended as a policy to all vehicles. That had made Ford particularly a target amid growing controversy over the increasing move to eliminate AM and new congressional legislation designed to make it mandatory in all new models.
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Jim Farley, Ford’s CEO, announced the reversal in a social media statement.
“After speaking with policy leaders about the importance of AM broadcast radio as a part of the emergency alert system, we’ve decided to include it on all 2024 vehicles,” Farley wrote. “For any owners of Ford EVs without AM broadcast capability, we’ll offer a software update. Customers can currently listen to AM radio content in a variety of ways in our vehicles – including via streaming – and we will continue to innovate to deliver even better in-vehicle entertainment and emergency notification options in the future. Thanks to our product development and manufacturing teams for their quick response to make this change for our customers.”
Last Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators and congresspeople had introduced a bill called the AM for Every Vehicle Act, which, if passed, would demand the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mandate having AM installed in new vehicles at no additional cost to the consumer, with warning stickers on any cars that got out prior to passage with it.
At least eight auto manufacturers have eliminated AM from vehicles, but thus far, apart from Ford, the exodus had mostly been limited to electric vehicles, with electrical interference being cited as a primary factor.
Ford spokesman Alan Hall told the Associated Press that the company had earmarked the the 2024 gasoline-powered Mustang as a non-EV that would go out without AM, but it will now be added before the car is delivered. In two Ford EVs, the 2023 Mustang Mach-e and F-150 Lightning, the software update should supposedly take care of making AM available.
The National Association of Broadcasters applauded Ford’s reversal. Said president-CEO Curtis LeGeyt, “NAB commends Ford for committing to keep AM radio in their vehicles, which will keep Americans safe and informed, particularly in times of emergency. With tens of millions of listeners, AM radio continues to serve as a vital lifeline to the public and a critical source of community news and exchange of diverse ideas.
“In light of Ford’s announcement,” LeGeyt continued, “NAB urges other automakers who have removed AM radio from their vehicles to follow Ford’s lead and restore this technology in the interest of listeners and public safety. NAB thanks the numerous lawmakers who are leading the charge to keep AM radio in automobiles, particularly the supporters of the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act. Their bipartisan voices are helping to shine a light on the need to keep this critical service. Broadcasters will continue to support this major legislation to ensure consumer access to AM radio in all vehicles.”
Ford had said that data collected from vehicles with web access showed that less than 5% of customers listened to AM, although that obviously doesn’t reflect the degree of listening in vehicles that are less sophisticated in their listening options. The National Association of Broadcasters says its data shows more than 80 million people listen to AM every month in the U.S.
Despite the outcry that erupted when the shift toward eliminating AM began to attract attention, not everyone is convinced it’s necessary going into the future. Among the more cynical Twitter responses to Farley’s tweeted announcement: “The world transitioned to cellular emergency notifications awhile ago. Some would say over two decades ago!” And: “AM radio is basically just propaganda and baseball.”
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