Ford reverses course and decides to keep AM radio on its vehicles : NPR
DETROIT — Owners of new Ford vehicles will be able to tune AM radio into their cars, trucks and SUVs after all.
CEO Jim Farley wrote in social media posts on Tuesday that the company is reversing a decision to strip the band after speaking with government policy leaders who are concerned about the -maintenance of emergency warnings that are often heard on AM stations.
“We have decided to include it on all 2024 Ford and Lincoln vehicles,” Farley wrote on Twitter and LinkedIn. “For any owners of Ford EVs without AM broadcast capability, we’ll offer a software update” to restore it, Farley wrote.
The move comes after a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers introduced a bill asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require AM in new vehicles at no additional cost.
Sponsors of the “AM for Every Vehicle Act” cited public safety concerns, noting the historical role of AM in transmitting vital information during emergencies, such as natural disasters, especially in rural areas.
Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., one of the bill’s sponsors, said eight of 20 major automakers including Ford, BMW and Tesla have pulled the plug on new vehicles.
“Ford’s reversal reflects an overdue realization about the importance of AM radio, but too many automakers are still going in the wrong direction,” Markey said in a written statement Tuesday. He said that Congress should still pass the bill to maintain 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 fewer than 5% of customers heard it, spokesman Alan Hall said. Electrical interference and reducing the cost and complexity of manufacturing also played a role.
The company also pulled the plug on the 2024 gasoline-powered Mustang, but will add it back before any of the muscle cars are delivered, Hall said.
The EVs will get an online software update to put AM back in the vehicles, and Ford will continue to include it in future vehicles as it looks at innovative ways to deliver emergency alerts, Hall said.
Ford and others have also suggested that internet radio or other communication tools could replace AM radio. But Markey and others pointed to situations where drivers may not have access to the internet.
The Federal Communications Commission and the National Association of Broadcasters praised the legislation, which is also supported by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, DN.J., Rep. Tom Kean, Jr., RN.J., Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Wash., among others.
But the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a US trade group representing major automakers including Ford and BMW, criticized the bill, calling the AM radio mandate unnecessary.
The trade group pointed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, which can distribute safety alerts over AM, FM, internet-based and satellite radios – as well as on cellular networks.
The alliance said that the bill gives preference to a technology that is competing with other communication options.
BMW said in a statement that if the bill is approved, the automaker will review the language and decide what to do next. Messages seeking comment from Tesla were left.
According to data from the National Association of Broadcasters and Nielsen, more than 80 million people in the United States listen to AM radio every month.