Lexus, Toyota Steer HD Radio With iTunes Tagging

Car Radio While much of the focus in digital audio has been on Pandora, HD digital radio is continuing to make slow but steady progress -- including that the technology will be offered as a factory-installed option in new cars from Lexus and Toyota.

The news is significant because original equipment manufacturer (OEM) deals are one of the main battlegrounds between HD radio and alternatives like Pandora and Sirius XM.

Lexus revealed that it will be offering HD radio with iTunes tagging capability in the 2013 GS 350 model, which was unveiled for the first time at the "Concours d'Elegance" in Pebble Beach. The 2013 GS 350 is the first vehicle from Lexus to offer HD radio technology as a factory-installed option.

In addition, Toyota said it will be offering HD radio technology as a factory-installed option in the 2012 Camry, also with iTunes tagging capability.



In addition to Lexus and Toyota, the list of carmakers that have OEM deals to offer HD radio in new models also includes Audi, Bentley, BMW, Ford, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, MINI USA, Rolls-Royce, Scion, Subaru, Tesla, Volkswagen and Volvo.

There are currently around 2,000 AM and FM stations broadcasting HD radio signals, including 1,300 which are using the technology to broadcast additional programming through HD multicasts.

However, HD radio faces stiff competition in the crucial OEM arena from Sirius XM and online audio service Pandora, which is a relative newcomer to the automotive market.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in October 2010, Pandora founder Tim Westergren said: "Our goal is to be in every new car that rolls off the manufacturing line." Then in January of this year, Pandora and Toyota announced that the carmaker will integrate the country's Pandora into Toyota's "Entune" multimedia system, allowing users to access Pandora via any cell phone with a data plan, including smart and feature phones.

Pandora also has partnerships with Ford and Mercedes, along with radio manufacturers Alpine and Pioneer, whose aftermarket products allow drivers to access Pandora from car dashboards.

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