Would you pay $130 to buy an HD radio for your car?

This morning, WELI-AM (Clear Channel in New Haven) ran a commercial suggesting that it would be a great idea to go to Wal-Mart and buy a $130 Pioneer radio for your car.   They said to ask about it at the Car Electronics department.

Being the evil guy I am, next time I go to Wal-Mart (perhaps today), I’ll see if my local Wal-Mart has a Car Electronics Department – I don’t think it does.  As Glenn Beck pointed out this morning, the Walmarts in Connecticut “suck” compared to others around the country.   The local store near me was in a building that originally housed a New England retailer called Caldors, which no longer exists.  Because they moved into an existing building, Walmart is severely constrained in what they can do with the store.   High property taxes also would also demotivate them from expanding.

My guess is the conversation will go something like this:

“Hi, I heard an ad this morning for a Pioneer “HD Radio” on sale – I don’t know what HD radio is, can you explain it to me?”

“Oh, it’s great! but I don’t really know much about it.  The guy who does works only on the weekends”.

“So, they said there will be all kinds of great radio stations for free that I can’t hear on a normal radio.   Do you have a list of those stations or some information about them?”

“No idea.”

“So, do you have one hooked up that we can turn on so I can try it out and hear those great secret stations?”

“No, there is one in the box over there – that’s all I know.   I’ve got to go now – there is a problem over in the candy aisle.”

(assuming I can even find a human being who speaks English)


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4 Responses to Would you pay $130 to buy an HD radio for your car?

  1. Parrott says:

    HD radio will probably go the way of AM stereo. We just bought an new vehicle and it came with XM but no HD radio. (XM has commercials)

    Good ol’ AM radio is still included in 2011 models. It worked pretty good too.

    Now the AM radio in my 2005 Dodge Ram Diesel is really sensitive. No spark plugs interfering with it at all.
    Have a good one

  2. briand75 says:

    Art – you discovered the latest retail gimmick. They display the merchandise and you buy it. No sales people keeps payroll low. Remember the economy is not healthy and to do more with less is the watch phrase.

    It isn’t just Walmart – it’s Macy’s, Sears, Penneys, etc. You are supposed to be the educated buyer and know which model you want. If you need assistance, it is supposed to be questions about returns or warranty.

    • Art Stone says:

      Funny you would mention Sears – I also went there to check out refrigerators. Sears slippery sales practices haven’t changed in 50 years.

      The only reason I picked on Walmart was the radio ad specifically mentioned the Pioneer radio being on sale at Walmart and that I should ask about HD radio. I thought it highly improbable that anyone working at Walmart knows even the basics about HD radio.

      The commercial was really vague about who (if anyone) was paying for it. The NAB has some “commitment” to promote HD radio, but it it is mostly a charade. So probably this is a Clear Channel, Pioneer and iBiquity campaign to mostly encourage Walmart to buy radio ads. I doubt any money changed hands – clear channel just added phantom numbers to the amount they have “contributed” to the HD effort.

      The Walmart employee didn’t seem to know about the ad campaign and I really doubt I was “counted” as a prospect that showed up at the store, which is how real marketing works.

  3. Art Stone says:

    My report for WalMart…

    So it turns out my WalMart does have an auto section (it doesn’t have a garage that repairs things – only sells stuff like batteries and lug wrenches. It’s in a special room in the back that I had never noticed before, despite going there fairly often.

    There was only one person in the room – a probably 30ish black man who looked like he might be an employee, who rarely had any reason to talk to anyone.

    So I approached him, confirmed that he was an employee, told him about the ad I had heard on the radio, and wondered if he could fill me on on what HD radio is 🙂 Keep in mind that HD radio has been approved by the FCC since 2002. the NAB has spent 10s of millions of dollars promoting HD radio, to no apparent effect.

    So he perks up that “Oh, HD radio means it’s really clear”. So far so good…. So they talked about all the secret channels in between the other stations that you can only hear if you have an HD radio…. what’s that all about?….. “I don’t know anything about that”…. They did have 2 Pioneer radios in stock on the shelf – it was listed at $115, which had me wondering if this was a different model. The box said it gets “HD2/HD3” channels – recently Ibiquity rolled out technology to allow stations to have an HD4 channel, that a number of stations are already using. What’s going through my mind is…. “How does this radio get HD4 channels – is it a software upgrade, or is it all ready to go and only changes at the radio transmitter” (I suspect it is the latter)…. but a possibility that I would be buying a device that is already obsolete.

    I then asked him about putting it in the car – was it going to be compatible with my 2001 car. Right away, he knew the answer to that – there is a GM mounting adapter ($13) that standardizes the connections for radios. I didn’t want to take too much of his time, even though he had nothing else to do…. but I wonder if the radio antenna for a digital FM radio has to be different in a car installation to get a decent signal… I don’t even know where antennas are these days – cars long ago stopped having external antennas, due to vandalism. The last car I remember noticing had the antenna as a tiny wire on the inside of the windshield.

    All in all, he was a nice helpful guy, but to none of my surprise, he knew very few of the details about what an HD radio is and what it can or can’t do. There was no display radio – just two radios in a box with super obvious theft protection

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