Dealerships attempt to set the price bar for DAB

The potential switchover to DAB from FM radio has presented the automotive industry with quite an opportunity. If it goes ahead, all existing FM radios would need to be replaced or converted assuming the motorist wishes to keep listening to the radio. Although the decision is not due until the end of 2013, manufacturers are already offering conversion kits to existing customers.

It seems audacious for companies to place an arbitrary price on a service that has not yet been deemed mandatory. Equally, although a significant aspect of the DCMS Action Plan is to ensure continued radio access for motorists, there is no desire to saddle drivers with excessive costs in retaining in-car radio. Indeed, much of the focus is on ensuring "affordable options to convert vehicles to DAB radio."

It is extremely unlikely that the switchover to DAB will stall. One of the main criteria for conversion over 50% of all radio listening via DAB is over halfway met, and this percentage is growing. A problem will arise, however, if motorists feel that they are bearing the brunt of the cost of switchover. Radio has always been free at the point of access, and a sudden levy to continue will not be happily received.

It is not yet clear what manufacturers see as their options on existing cars in a post-switchover nation. Asking a motorist to pay an additional lump sum for a radio on a second hand car when they are already making a large purchase is a little presumptuous. The alternative is to let the customer drive away with a vehicle that looks and feels considerably less "finished" than the manufacturer would like.

In the run-up towards the DAB switchover it would be worth waiting on an official outcome before leaping. It is likely that a wider and cheaper range of options will be available once the change is enforced, with many provided through the independent aftermarket. This perhaps explains why dealerships are looking to get a head start.