Where’s My #!&$% Car Radio?!

Photo: Dacia Duster via Roger Lanctot

Has this ever happened to you?  It’s time to buy or lease that next car, you do your homework, you read the reviews, you take the test drive, you do your haggling, and the next thing you know, that brand new shiny vehicle is sitting in your driveway.

And then maybe the first time you take out your prized possession for a spin, you discover that it’s missing a feature you value.  Maybe it’s the heated steering wheel, a compass, or intermittent windshield wipers.

Or the radio.

The #!&$% RADIO?!

It happens to the best of them.  In fact, perhaps the most knowledgeable person I’ve met when it comes to the connected car – Roger Lanctot – experienced this same “Are you kidding me?” sensation when he bought his recent vehicle, a well-equipped brand new BMW.  Roger purchased the vehicle during those dreaded supply line shortages, and as it turned out, the satellite radio parts weren’t ready when his car was built.  BMW simply omitted it, and when Roger called the dealership to plead his very best “WTF?” they told him to check the invoice.  BMW deducted the satellite radio feature from the total price of the car.

Still…if you value a feature that’s always been there, and somehow now it’s not, you’re not going to be a happy camper.  And Roger, to this day, is still bummed out his high-end infotainment system doesn’t include SiriusXM.

Ironically, it was Roger’s well-read blog that publishes like clockwork on LinkedIn that tipped me off to a new missing equipment mystery, featuring two brand new European EVs sans a critically important feature, at least in my opinion, and in the estimation of many who are regular readers of JacoBLOG:

The #!&$% RADIO?!

Roger’s article, aptly titled “Radio-Free Europe” tells the dual stories about the new Citroen e-C3 and the Dacia Duster – neither of which ships with a radio tuner.

Instead, they’re being pitched as “affordable EVs” that still come loaded with all sorts of features.  There’s just a glaring hole in the dash that used to contain a ubiquitous feature.

The #!&$% RADIO?!

And here’s the weird part – or maybe it’s not.  Roger explains both vehicles are receiving very positive reviews with nary a mention of the missing radios.

Either the reviewers missed the fact the radio was not part of the dashboard array OR it just wasn’t an important factor in how they evaluated these new EVs.  Note that both have Apple CarPlay, highlighting the slippery slope broadcast radio may be on, at least in Europe.

If you’re thinking like we often do here in the U.S., there oughta be a law against this.  Except the manufacturers in question – Stellantis and Renault – both found a workaround to the European Commission’s digital radio mandate:

Unless there’s no radio to begin with.

Roger Lanctot say this brazen omission from their new EVs is “a shot across the bow of the broadcast industry.”

And he posits that it may be even more disturbing that these two vehicles have gone to market without even a whisper of incredulity.

Roger again:

“Even more worrisome is the deafening silence from consumers and regulators. It appears that the Citroen and Dacia deletions have been received as a non-event.”

He acknowledges that here in the U.S., Stellantis, Renault, and any other OEM that tried to pawn off a radio-less new car would be met by a wall of protest from the NAB, state broadcaster associations, and radio broadcasters themselves.  You have to think a lot of consumers would be none too happy as well.  That is, if they knew about it.

And to that point, most people – including bots – assume a regular radio comes standard with the purchase of a new vehicle.  Both Dacia and Citroen pulled one over on Microsoft’s AI platform, Copilot.  When I asked about both vehicles, I get this same tepid response from Copilot:

It’s like the bot was responding to me, “Geez, it usually does, but…well, I’m not sure, and there’s no info about it, so you might want to contact the manufacturer or your dealership.”  Even AI concludes a radio usually comes standard.  In these cases, it isn’t even an option.

One thing about the “AM Radio For Every Vehicle Act” making its way around D.C. – it requires automakers to disclose the fact their vehicles don’t have AM if they were manufactured before the legislation goes into effect.  When you’re purchasing a new vehicle, it’s stressful to begin with, so it stands to reason that even something obvious might merit your attention.  Such as…

The #!&$% RADIO?!

Ultimately, automakers are going to attempt every cost-cutting move they can, especially if they can get away with it.  In a free market system, consumers don’t have to buy a vehicle if they’re unhappy with how it’s equipped.

And it follows that if customers knew a vehicle they admire in a showroom or online doesn’t have a radio, they’d go test drive something else.

To that point, a look at the 12% of new car buyers in Techsurvey 2024 provides the hierarchy of features drivers say are most important in their new vehicles.  FM radio is #2, while AM radio chugs in at respectable 6th place – above Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM, and a CD player.

Keep in mind, most respondents in our survey are core radio listeners.  Still, both AM and FM radio have each increased three points in importance this year, perhaps attributable to the fact the buzz that surrounded last year’s “OMG – they’re taking radio out of the car” controversy.  That story captured many news headlines in 2023, elevating the issue of their dashboard disappearance in the minds of many consumers, including some of my relatives.  No one is happy getting less than they’re used to, especially a feature that has been present in the middle of the dash for the entirety of our lives…

The #!&$% RADIO?!

So, car manufacturers, don’t lose sight of the fact that here in the U.S., nearly three in four radio listeners tell us FM in their infotainment systems is a “must have.”  And more than one in three feel the same about AM.  Remove them at your own risk.

Given the tenuous balance in the new vehicle market, you’d think the last thing they’d want to mess with is…

The #!&$% RADIO?!

Roger’s article is a must-read for broadcasters.  He strongly recommends that whatever car manufacturers end up doing, radio broadcasters would be wise to “refine their digital offerings and upgrade their metadata presence.”  (Now where have you heard that before?).

I’ll actually have a chance to learn more about what’s happening in Europe on the automotive front next week when I go to Prague to speak at the WorldDAB Automotive event.  I’ll be discussing the state of the connected dashboard in the U.S. with the NAB’s April Carty-Sipp.  Roger Lanctot is on the agenda as well.

I’m hoping to have some time before April and I go on stage to mingle with some of the car company execs in person.  The event looks to be well-attended and there are a number of opportunities on the agenda to network and talk about my favorite topic.

The #!&$% RADIO?!

Here’s a registration link for the WorldDAB automotive event.  I will be tweeting (Xing??) from the event, and I’m sure there will be a blog post as well.

Here’s a link to Roger’s article, “Radio-Free Europe.”

Originally published by Jacobs Media