Your next car might be missing a button – the one to switch between AM and FM radio. Car manufacturers are increasingly opting to eliminate AM radio in their new vehicles.
BMW, Mazda, Volvo, Volkswagen and Tesla, among others, have either already removed or plan to remove AM radio from at least some electric models. Ford is going even further, reports the Detroit Free Press, and ditching AM in all new cars – gas or electric.
Car manufacturers typically cite electromagnetic interference as the reason for removing the radios from EVs. Electric motors can interfere with AM radio frequencies, making it sound staticky over the airwaves.
But in a statement to the Free Press, Ford also said it’s just changing with the times.
“A majority of U.S. AM stations, as well as a number of countries and automakers globally, are modernizing radio by offering internet streaming through mobile apps, FM, digital and satellite radio options,” said company spokesman Wes Sherwood.
But for many listeners, AM radio isn’t a thing of the past. The Washington Post reports there are still over 4,000 U.S. AM radio stations that broadcast news, talk shows, sports and more.
“This is a tone-deaf display of complete ignorance about what AM radio means to Americans,” Michael Harrison, publisher of radio industry journal Talkers, told the Post.
There’s also concern the move could hinder the delivery of emergency weather alerts. The National Association of Broadcasters calls AM radio the “backbone of the nation’s Emergency Alert system.”
“Unlike FM radio, AM radio operates at lower frequencies and longer wavelengths, enabling it to pass through solid objects and travel further than other radio waves,” explains Sen. Ed Markey in a press release criticizing auto makers’ removal the radio.
“As a result, FEMA’s National Public Warning System — through which FEMA delivers critical safety alerts to the public — operates through broadcast AM radio stations.”
Markey urges automakers to come up with a way to fix the interference rather than remove the service altogether.
“I don’t think they have properly estimated how much people rely on and want to have AM radio available in their cars,” Sharon Tinsley, president of the Alabama Broadcaster’s Association, told Nexstar’s WIAT.