Ford UK is backtracking on an earlier promise to fit digital audio broadcast (DAB) radios to all its cars by 2004, writes Jonathan Thomson.

A spokeswoman for the company denied reports that the company had ever made a commitment to fit the digital radios.

However, she later accepted that when the car maker joined the digital audio broadcasting consortium MXR, Ford UK chairman Sir Ian McAllister said it intended “to fit digital radios as original equipment in Ford new cars sold in the UK by 2004.”

The spokeswoman stressed that any commitment would have been made subject to market conditions and equipment costs. She added that this remained the current position and that any move would be unlikely until the “technology was within an acceptable price-range.”

The news is likely to disappoint other MXR consortium members including Capital Radio, Chrysalis Radio and Guardian Media Group.

Sales of digital radios have been sluggish with only 50,000 sets sold in total across the UK.

Just-auto’s experience of home PC DAB in the English Midlands suggests that signal strength and stability need to be improved by the service which uses a network of ground transmitters to broadcast a wider selection of stations in multiplexed clusters.

The DAB technology boosts UK users’ station choices from about 10 FM stereo analogue signals to 25-30 digital channels.

Appropriately equipped receivers can receive additional data, such as song title and artist, but just-auto’s experience suggests that few DAB stations are yet transmitting such data.

New UK broadcasting transmission techniques received a setback earlier this year when a ground-based transmitter digital TV service went bust.