ford motor companyI flew down to Orlando today for a meeting. Spending one day in Florida, I rented a car from Hertz. The car, a 2009 Ford Taurus, was equipped with Sirius Satellite Radio. being a fan of satellite radio, I appreciated that fact. That is until I got into the car. Sure, there was a small sticker on the window letting me know that the car had Sirius, but nothing on the dashboard gave me that indication of satellite radio, nor was the stereo navigation very favorable to satellite radio.

I wanted to tune into CNBC. For those not familiar, that is channel 129. After figuring out how to get to satellite radio, I had to press the UP BUTTTON on the tuner 128 times to get to the channel I wanted! Perhaps their was an easier way, but it was by no means intuitive, and I was in a rental car. I was quickly reminded why I have always appreciated the plug and play type radios. They have easier navigation, more information on the screen, and better features such as artist seek, recording, and jump buttons.

As I drove the car, I could not help but think how the stereo control panel in the Taurus was not doing satellite radio any favors. No button that said “SAT”, no indication that satellite radio was available, and a very poor method from which to explore the satellite radio channel line-up. I can see why a person who is experiencing SDARS for the first time would not be overly impressed.

Knowing that the OEM channel is very important to satellite radio growth, I would hope that the dashboard would do a better job of selling the service. I would have hoped that by model year 2009 that the stereo would be more geared to a service offering over 100 channels than to terrestrial radio which offers a dozen. Alas, this does not appear to be the case

All of that being said, I reminded myself that it in not necessarily the job of Ford to market satellite radio. After all, Ford is not in the SDARS business, or at least not directly. If it is not the fault of Ford, then the responsibility must lay with Sirius XM Radio. The sticker on the window is great, the fact that the car has satellite radio is great. The poor navigation is a big detractor. Something needs to be done sooner rather than later.

Having resolved myself to the fact that there are thousands of these cars being sold with this type of set-up will take time to fix, I listened to CNBC and enjoyed my drive. I even listened to the commercials, because I had no desire to press the tuner button down 100 times to get to some good tunes only to press it up again to get back to CNBC.

A frustrating experience to say the least, but it was not the end of my frustration. Being a rental, I need to return the car with a full tank. Upon opening the gas hatch, I was greeted with, “Ford Recommends BP Fuel” stenciled right on the gas cap. Ired, I longed for at least a “SAT” button on the dash.

The bottom line. These OEM radios need some serious improvement so that the consumer has a better experience.

Position – Long Sirius XM, No Position Ford, Hertz