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US automakers are discontinuing car audio systems that include AM midwave bands. European automakers have been doing so for years.

So why are US automakers removing the AM midwave band from car audio systems? The reason may not be so obvious.

In the US, almost all AM stations have returned to news/talk programming as car listeners realize that AM medium wave sound quality is clearly inferior to FM and digital audio. But another reason for abandoning AM stems from the fact that electric vehicles (EVs) produce electromagnetic waves at roughly the same frequency as his AM medium wave signal. The result is significant interference between the AM receiver and the EV’s engine.

It’s ironic that the arrival of electric vehicles will be the last straw to shake the foundations of AM radio listening in the United States.

Electric cars are here to stay. EU Member States have agreed to stop selling internal combustion vehicles by 2035. Once the internal combustion engine is replaced by Tyrannosaurus Rex, the major US automakers probably won’t be far behind.

The Jacobs Media Tech Survey 2022 conducted in the United States shows that Bluetooth now overtakes FM as the preferred audio source for automobiles. The reason is pretty clear. With an increasing number of car listeners using their mobile phones as their primary audio source, Bluetooth is now one of the most popular ways to connect smartphones to car audio systems. We can conclude that for many users, smartphones are the primary source of in-car audio content.

As this trend progresses, radio stations are beginning to find themselves in direct competition with nearly every other digital audio source available on smartphones.

Even FM radio is hard to find in modern car audio systems. FM is just one of many listening options on your car’s touch screen.

Again, remember that radio companies are essentially providers of audio content. Our job is to make sure the program’s content is engaging and unique. In the age of digital audio, all players are equal. Content is the only thing that separates winners from losers.

Andy Vaubien, BPR


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