A wander through the halls of the Geneva International Motor Show provides a snapshot of the status of digital radio on the in-car entertainment menu. And the impression from this year's show is overwhelmingly positive. The message seems to be getting through to the manufacturers: car buyers value broadcast radio and DAB+ is increasingly a non-negotiable necessity.
There are some striking contrasts with this time last year. Makers that had no digital radio offer last year - Citroën, Peugeot, Suzuki, Nissan, Alfa Romeo, Kia - all now offer at least the option of DAB+. For those who were already offering DAB+ in a limited number of (usually high end) models last year, almost all of their cars on the show floor this year are equipped with DAB+. In this latter category are names like Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, Ford, Toyota, Skoda, Volvo, Opel, Land Rover amd Jaguar.
The other big difference is with the radios themselves. Many now have slideshows on colour screens, some with station logos, Electronic Programme Guide (EPG), advanced text services and DAB/FM automatic service following. It gives a clear signal to broadcasters to enable these features if they haven't done so already.
EBU representatives have been speaking with the exhibitors, updating them via a factsheet on the status of digital and hybrid radio across Europe. There is a clear and growing momentum behind in-car DAB+ now, and it is on track to increase further for next year's show, as commercial stations join their public counterparts on the DAB+ offer in the Geneva region later this year.
For car buyers the likelihood of digital radio becoming a requirement during the lifetime of their next purchase is very high. The manufacturers are waking up to this, with DAB+ available as at least an option on the majority of makes and models. However, broadcasters still need to work hard: services need to be promoted on a national basis, including to car dealers; and without good content and coverage there is nothing to market.