Ford makes Sirius commitment to sat

Radios to be factory-installed in 2006 models

NEW YORK — Ford Motor Co. gave Howard Stern the high-five Tuesday by announcing it will soon begin offering Sirius satellite radios as a factory-installed option in some Ford and Lincoln Mercury models.

In doing so, Ford said it hoped to pony up 1 million new Sirius subs over the next two years — essentially doubling the satcaster’s current base, which only just crossed the 1 million mark.

Beginning in summer, Sirius radios will be factory-installed on the 2006 Ford F-150, Ford Explorer, Lincoln Mark LT and Mercury Mountaineer. Ford said it is targeting an additional 17 2006 and 2007 models, meaning that Sirius radios would be included in roughly 80% of Ford’s fleet.

Carmaker said vehicles sold with the sat radio would include a six-month or longer subscription. Pricing hasn’t been disclosed.

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“Ford is a very important automotive relationship for us, and we are very pleased that they plan to offer factory-installed Sirius in the vast majority of their vehicle lines,” said newly anointed Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin.

Ford’s announcement strengthens its partnership with Sirius and potentially helps level the playing field with leader XM Satellite Radio, which has a deal with General Motors.

Under the present Ford-Sirius alliance, the sat radios are only available as a dealer option.

Sirius saw a strong run on Wall Street in recent weeks with news that it signed a multimillion-dollar deal with Stern, who will leave the broadcast airwaves and hook up with Sirius at the end of the year.

Sirius shares were up 3¢ to close at $7.51 in trading Tuesday.