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02/08

No AM Radio? Automakers Should Listen To Their Customers

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Now I am as pro-technology as anyone you’ll find in the audio space, but the reason to be pro-technology is to be pro-consumer. Because any technology that doesn’t serve the interests and desires of consumers is a solution that, by definition, nobody wants. And the only thing worse than not being wanted is being UNwanted.

So it is with the ridiculous decision of BMW and Tesla to dispense with AM radio in some of their recent EV vehicle lines.

Not surprisingly, some consumers are up in arms over this, as detailed in this incredibly poorly written piece in something called BMWBlog.

Okay, so electromagnetic interference ruins the already sketchy sound quality of AM in these cars. Isn’t the right solution to fix the problem rather than dispense with the platform so long as millions of consumers continue to use that platform for content which can’t be so easily found and used elsewhere – even via streaming?

It’s shocking that the automakers, who pride themselves on their attention to every consumer whim, could be so blind and deaf.

It’s easy to conclude that AM radio doesn’t matter – but only if you’re not one of its consumers.

In the long run, of course, AM’s days are numbered, but the long run is not today and imagining it to be so does not make it true.

Over time, any content exclusively found on AM will migrate to FM and other platforms as it has been doing for years (indeed, the biggest reason for AM’s decline is the migration of compelling content off the platform along with the ears that seek that content out).

The biggest consumer lesson smart technologists understand is that it’s not the whiz-bang bells and whistles of technology per se which make that tech valuable to consumers, it’s the power of that tech to solve problems or fulfill desires faster, easier, better, and with greater convenience than any traditional alternative.

This is why folks click over to Amazon for a package two days later. This is why folks summon an Uber when a taxi is only a few minutes away (or so they claim).

Technology is not an end unto itself. The value it creates is the end.

And if no technological solution can do a faster, better, easier, and more convenient job of getting the listener the content he or she wants than a trusty, familiar AM radio station, then let that station be heard, automakers! Otherwise, you’re just making what listeners want harder to get, not easier. And you’re making your products less valuable, not more valuable.

The awful writing concludes:

Maybe BMW and Tesla will be able to fix the problem without extra expense or weight, but the idea of adding either in the name of AM radio seems silly in an age where efficiency is of the utmost importance. If AM radio has to die for us to have modern EVs at their best, then maybe so be it.

Spoken like someone who has no favorite show on AM.

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