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Sirius Gets Nod From BMW, Kenwood, Audiovox

Sirius Satellite Radio has added Kenwood and Audiovox to its list of car audio suppliers planning to develop satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) receivers for OEM and aftermarket applications.

The satellite radio company also announced that BMW will offer its service in all of its U.S. BMW and Land Rover vehicles as soon as 2001 and that BMW would work with Sirius to develop telematics services exclusively for BMW and Land Rover owners.

The announcements were made at about the same time that SDARS rival XM Satellite Radio announced that Sony agreed to develop XM receivers for the home and portable markets, and the OEM and aftermarket car audio.

The announcement is important for Sirius because Kenwood surpassed Sony for the number-two market share position in car audio units and dollars for the first 11 months of 1999, according to NPD Intelect sell-through statistics released by Kenwood.

Kenwood doesn’t have a development agreement with Sirius rival XM, but the two are talking, said Bob Law, Kenwood’s mobile electronics VP. Audiovox, on the other hand, planned to announce at CES an agreement with XM for OEM car audio.

Sirius previously announced development agreements for OEM and aftermarket car audio sales with Alpine, Clarion, Delco, Panasonic, Recoton and Visteon. Sirius has also secured a commitment from Ford to offer Sirius products as early as the first quarter of 2001.

Before adding Sony and Audiovox to its roster, XM previously announced agreements with Alpine and Pioneer for OEM and aftermarket sales; Delco, Clarion and Motorola for OEM sales; and Sharp for home and portable audio. In addition, GM has already placed an order with Delco for XM-equipped CD and cassette head units for availability to consumers early in calendar year 2001.

Although Sirius has announced plans for late-2000 commercial availability of service, Kenwood’s Law believes the first Sirius car receivers won’t be available until early 2001.

Kenwood’s first receivers would most likely be sold as black-box add-ons of one of two types, Law said. One type of add-on could be controlled from a head unit that incorporates built-in SDARS controller. Another type of add-on receiver would come with a remote controller and an FM modulator that sends satellite programming through the antenna input of any existing sound system.

Kenwood also has a non-exclusive deal to develop terrestrial DARS receivers for use with the in-band on-channel (IBOC) technology developed by USA Digital Radio.

At CES, Kenwood is demonstrating prototype USADR-supplied receivers that are receiving live IBOC broadcasts from local FM station KWNR. One is installed in a limousine traveling around Las Vegas. Kenwood is also showing a mockup of an IBOC home receiver of its own cosmetic design.

Law believes USADR-technology IBOC receivers would most likely be available in the second half of 2001, although USADR has cited the potential for late-first-quarter 2001 availability. USADR rival Lucent has cited potential second-quarter 2001 availability of Lucent-technology receivers if Lucent’s technology is selected by the FCC.