Vorsprung Durch Technik: Audi switches to digital radio
Digital Radio UK and Audi has announced that new Audi models in the UK will have digital radio fitted as standard from April 2013. Given Audi's UK strong market share of new cars and brand reputation for technology leadership ("Vorsprung durch Technik"), this represents a major milestone for digital radio.
Audi is one of the best-selling car brands in the UK with a market share of over 6% and sales of over 120,000 cars per year. Their most popular models include the A series (A3, A4 and A5) and the Q series (Q3, Q5 and Q7) and Audi models ordered in April 2013 will have DAB digital radios fitted as standard (excepting initially the R8 and TT models). This summer, Audi will introduce a range of digital radio adapters to enable motorists to retro-fit all existing Audi models with an Audi fully integrated digital radio.
There has been significant progress for digital radio in-car in the UK with one third (33.3%) of all new cars sold in Q4 2012 having digital radio as standard, according to CAP/SMMT, compared with 20.8% in Q4 2011 and just 7.5% in Q4 2010. Audi's announcement is further evidence of the transformational shift towards digital radio by the vehicle industry and reflects the impact of the commitments made by the major manufacturers.
Ford, VW and Vauxhall have all recently announced their intent to introduce digital radio as standard in their new models and CAP/SSMT data for January 2013 shows that BMW, Mini, Land Rover and Jaguar are already fitting digital radio as standard into all new models.
In parallel with the move to fitting digital radio as standard in new cars comes an industry drive to offer aftermarket solutions to motorists to enable them to convert their existing analogue car radio to digital. Digital radio adapters and digital radio head units are now sold in over 2,500 dealer showrooms in the UK as well as in over 400 branches of Halfords and independent in-car retailers.
The decision for vehicle manufacturers to offer digital radio as standard is prompted by increasing consumer demand from drivers who are listening to digital radio stations at home, the intention of Government to confirm their plans for a future radio switchover and the rapid expansion of national and Local DAB coverage in the UK.
There has been good progress on coverage improvements in the UK. Since last year's signing of a local DAB coverage agreement between Government, BBC and commercial radio the buildout of local DAB has begun, with new transmitters in 14 areas either complete or underway, bringing BBC local stations and local commercial radio on DAB for the first time to millions of listeners and thousands of miles of roads.
BBC national DAB coverage is now over 94% and is being extended to 97%. National commercial DAB coverage is now increasing to 90% with a planned expansion into Northern Ireland later this year.
Government plans to make an in-principle announcement on a radio switchover later in 2013 which will trigger a further phase of local coverage buildout.
Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK, says: "We see the announcement that Audi is installing digital radio as standard into new models from April as a major milestone in the UK new car market. Audi is a much beloved and respected brand in the UK, accounting for over 6% of the new car registrations every year, and now many more drivers will be able to enjoy the additional choice of stations and the digital sound quality of digital radio on the move."
Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, says: "Audi's decision to fit digital radios is good news as drivers will be able to enjoy the full range of stations now available. More and more car manufacturers are making the switch to digital and by the end of the year the majority of new cars should have digital radio as standard."
Director of Audi UK Martin Sander said: "Quite simply, digital radio improves the ownership experience for our customers, not only in terms of the enhanced clarity and strength of its signal, but also the breadth of station choice and the degree of detail in the information it provides. Our premium in-car audio systems, and especially our outstanding BOSE and Bang & Olufsen upgrades, richly deserve digital broadcast quality, and I am delighted that we can now offer it as standard in new models."
Graham Ellis, Acting Director of BBC Audio & Music, says: "It's great news that more and more motor manufacturers are responding to the growing demand from customers to fit digital radios in their car. This gives even more people the opportunity to tune into BBC stations, including Radio 4 Extra, 1 Xtra and BBC 6 Music."
Mike Baunton, Interim CEO at SMMT, says: "This demonstrates further progress and commitment by the UK motor industry in preparing for a digital radio future. We are well on track to have digital radio fitted to the majority of new cars as standard by the end of 2013."