AM radio has been deemed obsolete by several automakers, including Ford, BMW, and Tesla, who will no longer feature the foundational low-frequency option in their newest car models.
According to The Washington Post, the decision to eliminate access to AM radio by car companies was influenced by the medium’s shrinking consumer base as well as a quirk with electric engines that disrupts its signal. BMW, Mazda, Polestar, Rivian, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Volvo have already removed the audio feature from their electric vehicles, while Ford announced that it will extend the phase-out to both future electric and gas-powered models. Their 2024 Mustang will be the first of the latter group to hit the market without an AM radio option.
Meanwhile, automakers like Nissan, Toyota, and Honda have stood firm against the frequency’s forced obsolescence along with a collection of bi-partisan lawmakers who have defended AM radio’s unique offering of local reporting, critical live updates during extreme weather, and to conservatives, easy access to talk radio personalities like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.
The recent decision by Ford was backed by company data that stated AM radio accounted for less than 5 percent of in-car listening. However, the National Association of Broadcasters estimated 82 million Americans listen to AM stations each month. A recent study of listener data analysis by Edison Research also bucks the claim that radio audiences are an aging demographic as Gen-Z listeners are shown to still regularly opt for AM and FM radio options. Edison also found that the two broadcast signals still command 60 percent of in-car listenership, followed by SiriusXM satellite radio at 16 percent, and music from the drivers’ phone at 7 percent, while podcasts and YouTube music videos each netted 4 percent apiece.
General Motors, the top-selling US automaker, has yet to offer their plans for AM radio going forward.