RELEASE: Gottheimer Announces New Action Against Automakers Discontinuing AM Radio in Electric Vehicles

Car & Truck Manufacturers putting public safety at risk. Key to Communicating During Storms, Floods, Security & Terror Threats. Proposes New Required Window Sticker at Dealers: “Warning: No AM Radio. Vehicle Unsafe in Certain Emergencies.”

Jan 29, 2024
Press
Uncategorized

Above: Gottheimer with an example of a new warning safety label for vehicles sold without AM radio.

PARAMUS, N.J. — Today, January 29, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced new action to protect AM radio in electric vehicles and ensure potential buyers know which cars and trucks have AM radio and those that don’t. AM radio is a vital public safety and emergency management tool that has served as the sole lifeline during times of crisis like 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, and other major storms and floods.

Car manufacturers, like Elon Musk’s Tesla, have said they will cut AM radio from their new production vehicles — threatening the 47 million Americans who listen to AM radio, who represent around 20% of the radio-listening public, and putting public safety and national emergency management at risk. 

Video of today’s announcement can be found here

Gottheimer’s New action to protect AM radio:

  • First, Gottheimer sent a letterto the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, urging them to require auto manufacturers that exclude AM radio reception from their motor vehicles to display a safety warning in the car’s window sticker.
    • The warning should read: “Warning: No AM Radio. Vehicle Unsafe in Certain Emergencies.”
    • An example sticker can be found here.
  • Second, Gottheimer is leading the bipartisan, bicameral law, AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act. This bill will require auto manufacturers to keep AM radio in vehicles, without charging customers extra for it.
    • Gottheimer announced that the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act is one of the most widely supported bills in this Congress, with 200 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and 40 in the Senate.
      • It also has the support of dozens of organizations from across the country, including the National Association of Broadcasters, AARP, the National Emergency Management Association, the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, and many more. 

“Buying a car without AM radio is like buying a car without an emergency parking brake. You may not use it every day, but you’ll be glad you have it if your brakes ever go out,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “I would think that if Elon Musk has enough money to buy Twitter and send rockets to space, he can afford to include AM radio in his Teslas.”

Gottheimer continued, “Today, I’m sending a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, urging them to include new information on the car sticker price that’s on the window of every vehicle. The importance of AM radio during large-scale emergencies cannot be underestimated, and it has, without a doubt, and without interruption, saved lives and kept our communities informed. Potential customers must be made aware if their vehicles lack this key safety feature.”

Gottheimer’s previous work to protect AM radio:

  • Gottheimer has written to major EV auto manufacturers — including Tesla — urging them to reconsider their decision to discontinue AM radio in their cars and trucks and to include the public safety tool as a stock feature. Read Gottheimer’s letters to major EV manufacturers here.
  • Gottheimer has worked to ensure that AM radio stations remain safe and intact during national emergencies through federal investment in backup power, hardening antennas and towers, and supporting key communications equipment for AM radio stations. Last year, Gottheimer helped successfully secure a critical federal investment of $56 million for the Next Generation Warning System to improve the capabilities of public broadcasters to send vital emergency and civil defense warnings.
  • Gottheimer is calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to add AM radio to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards — to require that all automakers, including EV manufacturers, include AM radio as a stock feature in their vehicles.
    • Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards are the minimum safety standards that a manufacturer must meet when making a vehicle — including requirements related to airbags, brakes, seatbelts, tires, controls, and displays.

Below: A mockup of the car purchase sticker with new safety warning labels.

Below: Gottheimer in front of a Tesla dealership fighting for AM radio in Paramus.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Good morning. We are here this morning, next to this Tesla dealership, to announce the next steps in our goal to keep AM radio in America’s cars and trucks, and to stop auto manufacturers who are putting their bottom line ahead of protecting our families in emergencies. Unfortunately, many auto manufacturers are doing just that — taking AM radio out of their electric vehicles just to save a few bucks.

Today’s new action will help ensure that every time one of these dealerships sells an electric vehicle, customers will know that they’re buying a car without AM radio, and that the car is unsafe in certain emergencies.

AM radio is literally the backbone behind America’s National Public Warning System. It provides emergency-alert and warning information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to the public during major natural disasters, extreme weather conditions, like snow and flooding, chemical incidents, health emergencies, and other domestic threats and emergencies.

Here in Jersey, we know all too well how important AM radio is during crises.

Most of us who are old enough remember the panic and fear on 9/11. Phones weren’t working because of downed cell service, maxed out phone lines, and damaged infrastructure. But, even in that crisis, AM radio was reliable and allowed information to be shared widely with millions.

Then, during Hurricane Sandy, AM radio was used to broadcast emergency updates and evacuation orders to people who were affected by the superstorm. Earlier this month, Jersey had to declare a state of emergency because of heavy rain and snow, widespread flooding, and back-to-back storms.

The National Public Warning System’s 77 radio stations, which operate on AM and cover at least 90 percent of the U.S. population, are equipped with backup communications equipment and generators that allow them to continue broadcasting information to the public during and after an emergency. In the event of a serious emergency, these battle-hardened, high-powered stations would remain operational and can even be heard from thousands of miles away. The closest station to us — the one that would cover Northern New Jersey and the New York Metropolitan area — is WABC-AM 770 out of New York City.

The AM band signals can travel longer distances than FM or satellite radio signals. It can penetrate buildings, and gets to you no matter what. In other words, when the cell phone runs out, the internet gets cut off, or the television doesn’t work because of no electricity or power to your house, you can still turn on your AM radio. You don’t want to be one of the thirty million Americans who subscribe to satellite radio either. You just need to turn AM on in your car, truck, home, or an old transistor radio.

Over the years, Congress has invested significantly in hardening AM radio as part of the National Public Warning System. I’ve also helped secure a critical federal investment of $56 million dollars for the Next Generation Warning System to improve the capabilities of public broadcasters to send vital emergency and civil defense warnings.

The FCC Chairwoman has reiterated the importance of the system, saying, “There is a clear public safety imperative here. Having AM radio available in our cars means we always have access to emergency alerts and key warnings while we are out on the road.”

I’ve proudly worked with the National Association of Broadcasters to protect AM Radio. In their recently released public safety report, they made clear just how vital AM radio was in recent disasters — from fires to tornados to floods.

Yet, many auto manufacturers including Tesla, BMW, Mazda, Polestar, Rivian, Volkswagen, and Volvo have already taken AM radio out of their electric vehicles. These companies say that the electromagnetic noise from their electric cars can disrupt the reception of AM signals – and they don’t feel like spending a few bucks on a part to stop any interference. The early Tesla models actually had well-functioning AM radio. Others like GM, and Stellantis (formerly Fiat-Chrysler) still do.

The electric car that I drive, a Ford, has AM radio, and it works just fine. There is also another reason, and the Wall Street Journal talked about this yesterday: many auto manufacturers want to take over your dashboard and charge you a monthly fee, just like satellite radio, to listen to anything in your car, from talk radio to music. AM radio gets in the way of that plan.

I would think that if Elon Musk has enough money to buy Twitter and send rockets to space, he can afford to include AM radio in his Teslas.

The good news, after calls, some auto manufacturers, like Ford are listening – and have reversed their decision to eliminate AM radios.

But, if some car manufacturers get their way, they’ll be able to rip out AM radio from their vehicles, putting the public at risk.

That’s why today, I’m announcing new actions to protect public safety and encourage electric vehicle manufacturers to include and keep AM radio in their cars and trucks.

First, when customers walk into a dealership, we must ensure that potential car and truck buyers know which cars and trucks have AM radio and those that don’t – and know the inherent dangers that come with purchasing a vehicle without it. That’s why, today, I’m sending a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, urging them to include new information on the car sticker price that’s on the window of every vehicle. If their electric vehicles exclude AM radio, auto manufacturers should be required to note in big red letters on that sticker price: “Warning: No AM Radio. Vehicle Unsafe in Certain Emergencies.”

Here is an example of that safety warning. This common-sense step should be required until we pass into law the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act, or something similar, requiring life-saving AM radio reception in all vehicles.

Second, I wanted to give a quick update on that bipartisan, bicameral law, my AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act. As a reminder, it requires auto manufacturers to keep AM radio in vehicles, without charging customers extra for it. I’m proud to announce that it is one of the most widely supported bills in this Congress, with 200 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and forty Senate.

It also has the support of dozens of organizations from across the country, including the National Association of Broadcasters, AARP, the National Emergency Management Association, the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, and many more. And, its sponsors range from the Speaker of the House and Representative Barbara Lee to Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz.

 I’m proud to lead this wide, bipartisan support of AM radio. Even though I love satellite radio, it’s not built or hardened for national emergencies, and only 10 percent of the country listens to it compared to the 47 million that listen to AM radio every day. Oh, and by the way, AM radio listening time is up over the past few years, to just over two hours a day, Nielsen reported.

Finally, the importance of AM radio during large-scale emergencies cannot be underestimated, and it has, without a doubt, and without interruption, saved lives and kept our communities informed. Potential customers must be made aware if their vehicles lack this key safety feature.

Buying a car without AM radio is like buying a car without an emergency parking brake. You may not use it every day, but you’ll be glad you have it if your brakes ever go out.

It’s critical that our local, state, and federal governments can quickly and clearly get important information to all communities — and we know that AM radio has always been most reliable.

God forbid there is a natural disaster or terror threat here in Jersey — I don’t want any family to be out of reach from critical, lifesaving public safety information because traditional communication infrastructure is down. No electric vehicle manufacturers should be able to cut corners on public safety, if they do, Congress, the Department of Transportation, and NHTSA should step in.

Here in the greatest country in the world, if we always work together — both in the public and private sector — to protect our families and boost safety, I know that our best days will always be ahead of us.

Thank you, God bless you, God bless our troops, and God bless the United States of America.

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