All new BMW models launched in the UK will have DAB digital radios fitted as standard across the entire range from January 2013.
DAB is currently an option on new models and as standard in some high-end models, including the 7 Series, and follows the decision of the BMW Group to fit new Minis with digital radio as standard from September 2010.
BMW say the move sees the marque establish a marked lead in the switch over to digital radio, and comes soon after it offered owners of older BMWs the chance to upgrade their vehicles with a retrofit solution. In July 2012 BMW announced that they would provide a digital radio aftermarket adapter solution in their UK franchise dealers that would enable any BMW model to be converted to receive digital radio.
BMW sells over 116,000 cars annually in the UK and their 3 Series is the 8th best-selling new model in the UK.
The BMW digital radio announcement follows the recent Drive 2 Digital Conference which heard from the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey, that Government plan to make a radio switchover announcement in 2013 and that the BBC is actively building DAB coverage out towards 97%.
Over 300 automotive industry and broadcaster attendees heard from the Minister about progress being made on fitting digital radios in cars. Minister Ed Vaizey announced that digital listening had increased to nearly one third of all listening and that a quarter of new cars were now fitted with digital radio as standard. He said that this great progress demonstrated that listeners love digital radio and that the car industry was fully engaged with the transition to digital.
The BBC’s acting Director General, Tim Davie, confirmed the BBC’s commitment to digital radio at the conference, and said increases in digital listening meant that the road to a future digital radio switchover was now clear and inevitable. He said this was due to listeners loving the expanded choice on digital radio. Davie announced that specific plans for BBC national DAB coverage build-out to 97% would be confirmed in spring 2013, with a focus on ensuring that all motorways and major road networks were covered.
Ford, Vauxhall and VW have already announced plans to accelerate their transition to providing digital radio as standard in new models. According to SMMT, in September 2012 26% of all new cars had digital radio as standard and Ford of Britain confirmed that over 50% of their new cars in the UK now came with digital radio as standard.
Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK, welcomed the BMW announcement saying that this is a real tipping point on the transition to offering digital radio in all new cars. He said that it is good news for drivers as research conducted by Digital Radio UK and Auto Trader shows high satisfaction levels among drivers with digital radio in their car, and high willingness to recommend to others. Ennals said that the new industry communications campaign, which launches on BBC TV on 17 November, followed by heavyweight commercial and BBC radio, would carry a strong message about the benefits of digital radio in-car.
Tim Davie, the BBC’s acting Director General, says: “While it is encouraging to see record numbers for BBC digital stations, the real breakthrough will come when DAB radio is in all cars. Therefore, it is excellent news that while the BBC builds out coverage, more and more car manufacturers are now announcing that DAB will be standard fit in all their models.”