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BMW Expands Fall HD Radio Launch

BMW will become the first automaker to offer HD Radio in the United States with the launch later this year of 2006-model-year vehicles in BMW’s top-end 7 Series and in its 6 Series.

HD Radio will be a factory-installed option in the vehicles. Previously, BMW revealed only that the 7 Series would get the option in the 2006 model year.

HD Radio inventor iBiquity claims eight automaker brands representing 30 different models are committed to launch HD Radio within the next few years.

At BMW, HD Radio will be a $500-suggested outboard-black-box option in all four 7 Series vehicles and in the in the 6 Series’ two models starting with September production. The 7 Series vehicles, priced from $71,800 to more than $119,000, are the 750i, 750Li, 760i and 760Li sedans. The 6 Series consists of the 650i coupe starting at a suggested $71,800 and the 650i convertible starting at $78,800.

The black box will not receive FM multicasts, BMW said, but drivers will be able to tune into more than 500 digital AM and FM stations, iBiquity said. All of the top 50 U.S. markets have HD Radio stations. Among major markets, there are 21 stations in Detroit, 19 in Los Angeles, 19 in Chicago, 18 in Atlanta, 16 in Miami, 15 in Boston, 15 in San Francisco, and 14 in New York.

iBiquity expects to exceed its year-end target of 600 stations, marketing VP Dave Salemi previously told TWICE. That number will double in 2006, he said, as part of plans announced last year and early this year by 23 radio station groups to add HD Radio to a combined 2,500 stations over three to four years.

In the car audio aftermarket, five companies are shipping either an outboard HD Radio tuner or a CD-receiver with integrated HD Radio. They will be joined in November by Alpine, iBiquity said. Current autosound shippers are JVC, Eclipse, Kenwood, Panasonic and Sanyo. Kenwood and Eclipse offer outboard tuners that can be controlled from many of their head units. Only Kenwood offers a car product that offers FM multicast reception.

About two dozen stations are currently multicasting, but that will rise to about 50 by year’s end and to around 200 next year, Salemi projected.