Several automakers, including Ford, BMW, and Tesla are doing away with AM radio in their new electric cars. Mainly since electric engines can disrupt AM signals. Ford is taking it one step farther, and eliminating it from all of their gas-powered models, too. The upcoming 2024 Mustang will be the first non-electric vehicle to have this feature removed.
Automakers BMW, Mazda, Polestar, Rivian, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Volvo are removing the AM radio option from their electric vehicles. But Nissan, Toyota, and Honda are partnering with bi-partisan lawmakers to fight the frequency’s forced obsolescence.
With the seemingly endless ways to consume media on the go, many forget about the humble AM radio. But for many, it is still a source for local reporting and live updates during extreme weather events. As well as access to conservative talk radio personalities like Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and the late Rush Limbaugh.
Companies looking to remove AM radio are quick to point out many AM stations offer live feeds on the internet. So consumers will still have access to these programs if they stream them. The issue with that is not all AM stations offer that option. Plus, many older listeners are not tech-savvy enough to figure out how to stream those options in their car or from their cell phones. And that’s assuming they even have a cell phone capable of doing so. Some people are still rocking flip phones, or other non-“smart” devices.
Conservative talk show hosts are also fighting back since the majority are hosted on AM airwaves. “The automobile is essential to liberty,” right-wing talk show host Mark Levin said. “It’s freedom. So the control of the automobile is about the control of your freedom. They finally figured out how to attack conservative talk radio.”
Ford used data showing less than 5% of in-car listeners are using AM radio, to back their decision to do away with it. In contrast, the National Association of Broadcasters has estimated 82 million Americans still listen to AM stations each month. A study done by Edison Research shows that Gen-Z regularly listens to AM broadcasts. The same study also showed that the two broadcast signals still hold 60% of in-car listenership. With SiriusXM satellite radio sitting at 16%, music from phones sits at 7%, with podcasts and YouTube music videos only taking 4% apiece.
It seems that streaming may not be the juggernaut we once thought it was. If the younger and more tech-savvy generation is still opting for radio, it kind of blows apart the argument that AM’s listener base is slowly dying off.