The End of AM/FM Radio?

A new car without a radio?

It sounds as unthinkable as a new car without floor mats or a heater. But there is a real danger that your next new car might come without an AM/FM receiver.

Or, might cost you extra.

Seriously.

As unthinkable as it sounds – and as undesirable as it would be (based on known consumer preferences; more on that in a minute) there is chatter in Detroit that the car industry is giving thought to retiring the AM/FM receiver in favor of music piped into the car via subscription-based satellite radio, iPods, smartphones and various mobile apps.

DURA LUBE HL-40199-06 ... Buy New $10.97 (as of 10:00 EDT - Details) Rather than these technologies supplementing AM/FM radio – as they do right now – they would replace it.

Leaving you in the dark.

Well, in the quiet.

Unless you opened up your wallet and paid for the satellite radio hook-up.

Think of it as in-car audio on the cable TV model. Which you’d have no choice but to pony up for if the manufacturers stopped including AM/FM receivers in their new cars. You can imagine the effect this would have on the monthly subscription cost of SiriusXM and so on, since they’d have everyone over the proverbial barrel.

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As things stand, SiriusXM has to compete with free radio, which keeps prices low – and also probably keeps programming more varied. If AM/FM went away, with it would go thousands of smaller channels, the source waters for many of the Big Names in major outlet media we’re all familiar with today… before they became Big Names. (This includes, by the way, this writer – who is a frequent guest on regional/local AM/FM radio stations across the country.)

And no matter how much you spent, you’d still be unable to listen to your local stations.

Satellite radio is great for national news – and a steady stream of ’70s hits, if that’s your thing. But if you want to hear local people discuss local issues… get local news, local sports, hear local broadcast personalities… well, there isn’t an app for that.

It’s not surprising, given all this, that most prospective car buyers are not interested in throwing AM/FM radio in the woods – so to speak – and being effectively forced to buy into fee-for-service audio, such as SiriusXM.

How many is “most”?

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