Auto dealers will get a head start selling satellite car-radio before the technology arrives in factory-installed packages.
The fee-based radio technology has long been planned as an original equipment feature. General Motors is planning to introduce satellite radio on some 2002 model Cadillacs. American Honda Motor Co. has said it will offer satellite radio but has not specified when.
XM's new plan to distribute through independent auto retailers and vehicle audio stores "gives car dealers a leg up on offering the idea to customers as an add-on," said Dan Murphy, XM vice president for marketing and distribution.
"We expect the majority of our business to come through retailers rather than the factories, at least for the first year or two," Murphy said.
Although satellite radio uses a new kind of vehicle radio equipment, Murphy said retailers will be able to add the systems into a vehicle without affecting its existing audio equipment.
Satellite radio works on the same principle as cable TV. Subscribers will pay about $10 a month to receive about 100 national radio channels. Each will be tailored to a different genre or music, along with separate stations for comedy, children's programming, sports and news.
The actual cost for the systems will vary greatly, depending on the model of the radio. Murphy said XM wants to have a wide variety of price points.