It was a message heard around the radio industry. Last May, Ford announced it would continue to offer AM radio to drivers of two of its 2023 electric vehicles, despite saying earlier they were ditching AM. “For any owners of Ford EVs without AM broadcast capability, we’ll offer a software update,” CEO Jim Farley said. The carmaker tells Inside Radio they have already started offering the update and will continue in stages across the nation.
“The software update has started to be deployed to those vehicles to configure AM Radio back on and available for customer usage,” said Alan Hall, Ford’s Director of Technology Communications. “The deployment is on-going, and customers may receive the update at different times,” Hall said.
Ford is not saying how many cars will get the update, but Hall said that the only electric vehicle models that did not have the AM capabilities were the 2023 Mustang Mach-e and F-150 Lightning electric pickups. It said data collected from vehicles showed that fewer than five percent of customers turned to the AM dial, while electrical interference and reducing costs and manufacturing complexity also played a role in the decision-making. Those two models had previously included AM radio as a factory-installed feature in 2021 and 2022.
Farley said last year that Ford decided to include AM on all 2024 Ford and Lincoln Motor vehicles after speaking with policy leaders about “the importance of AM broadcast radio as a part of the emergency alert system.” While a significant move for broadcasters as they work to convince other carmakers to do the same, Ford is so far not committing to AM beyond the current model year.
“As a matter of policy, we don’t comment on future product plans, and will remain focused on listening to and responding to our customers’ feedback to balance the transition to new technologies,” Hall said.
Farley pointed out in his announcement last May that Ford customers can currently listen to AM radio content “in a variety of ways” including via streaming. “We will continue to innovate to deliver even better in-vehicle entertainment and emergency notification options in the future,” he said.
Ford’s decision may have some rivals second-guessing their decision to drop AM radio while other carmakers have said they have no plans to exclude the legacy band from the radio available in their dashboard. That includes Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Land Rover, Jaguar, and Mitsubishi Motors. Honda said that for its two officially announced EVs, both AM and FM will be featured since the models were co-developed with General Motors utilizing GM’s pre-existing Ultium platform.
Others have resisted. Mazda said it has no plans to reintroduce AM to its first electric vehicle, the MX-30. Tesla and Volkswagen have said the same. Toyota says that while its existing electric vehicles feature AM, the electromagnetic interference caused by the batteries used in EVs has them holding out on committing future model years.
Support Grows In Congress
It is not just Detroit where the radio industry battle to keep AM in the dashboard is being waged. In Washington, the radio industry continues to find growing support for legislation that would make AM radio mandatory in vehicles. The proposed AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act (H.R.3413) has climbed to 201 supporters in the House, with the addition of Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-FL) last week, with another 46 backers in the Senate.
If passed, the proposed legislation would direct the Department of Transportation to issue a rule requiring that AM broadcast stations be accessible in all passenger motor vehicles manufactured in, imported into, or shipped within the U.S. The Government Accountability Office would also be required to study whether alternative communication systems could fully replicate the reach and effectiveness of AM radio for alerting the public during emergencies.