A £10 million PR campaign by the digital industry will help accelerate take-up of digital radio (DAB) this year, with fleets playing a key role in bringing the technology to the wider market.
DAB has to hold a 50% share of all radio listening hours and at least 90% of local coverage before the Government will announce dates for the switchover. Currently the share of listening hours is 32%.
Digital Radio UK sees in-car DAB as a key driver to bring the extra 18% needed. The magic number is widely expected to be reached in 2015.
As director at Digital Radio UK, Laurence Harrison has a vested interest in speeding up the process. He believes the fleet industry is extremely important given its investment in new vehicles each year.
“The industry needs to understand that digital radio is the future for radio in the UK and a switchover is being planned,” Harrison said.
“Fleet managers should be investing in vehicles with DAB as standard to future-proof their fleets and give their drivers the best radio experience.”
Just 5% of cars on the road have DAB technology. It is offered as standard in 26% of new car models, although 50% have it as an option.
According to the SMMT, fleets need to consider the technology now to avoid potentially losing out on residual values when defleeting.
“Cars that don’t have digital radios that come back to market in 2015 will be difficult to sell. There is growing desire for both new and used cars to have digital radios,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.
CAP is confident that the new car market will be fully geared to the change when it occurs and believes it will become an essential part of a car’s standard specification.
“Whether it’s in 2015 or later, DAB will be essential rather than a ‘nice to have’ option,” said new vehicle data expert David Saville.
BMW has become only the latest manufacturer to offer DAB as standard across all of its cars. CAP expects other manufacturers to follow suit.
Saville said: “Where the Germans lead in the car market, others follow, and so we expect most manufacturers to start making DAB standard in the coming year to 18 months.”
Audi and Peugeot intend to standardise the technology this year. However some, including Nissan and Kia, will not be offering DAB technology, instead choosing to focus on adapters for the current analogue technology.
With around 25 million older cars on the road, Harrison believes there is a lot of potential for manufacturer aftersales operations when the digital switchover is confirmed.
“Vehicle manufacturers are starting to make approved aftermarket products available and we believe demand is going to grow in the run-up to, and after, a switchover announcement. It will be up to manufacturers to offer the right deals to consumers looking to upgrade,” said Harrison.