Is Ford's Gain Sirius XM's Pain?

You have to love Ford's (NYS: F) problem -- or at the very least the automaker's fix to the problem.

MyFord Touch -- the company's state-of-the-art infotainment platform -- has no shortage of critics. Car reviews haven't always been kind, knocking MyFord Touch as being complicated, buggy, and slow to respond.

Unlike the costly recalls that often take place when a piece of hardware is defective, Ford should be able to remedy MyFord Touch's shortcomings with a software upgrade. It plans the update early next year, and mailing out flash drives, user downloads, or stopping by the dealer should do the trick.

The push to entertain drivers without distracting them -- or at the very least appear to offer more high-tech candy than showroom rivals -- has to be making Sirius XM Radio (NAS: SIRI) nervous. Revenue has only grown 6% over the past year, and the last thing it wants is the dashboard to get even more crowded. Competing against terrestrial radio is an easy marketing proposition, but life gets harder as the growing number of smartphone-owning drivers get behind the wheel of cars with seamless Bluetooth integration.

Garmin (NAS: GRMN) has already felt the pinch of drivers with smartphones. GPS units aren't selling the way they used to, leaving the company to lean on fitness, outdoor, marine, and aviation for growth. It hasn't been enough, as growth in all four of those categories wasn't enough to offset a 13% decline in automotive in its latest quarter.

Is Sirius XM the next Garmin?

It's a fairer comparison than you may initially think. Folks are paying through the nose for their smartphones, so why should they pay for nuvi GPS systems and pay to keep them updated? By the same token, with at least three major carmakers now promoting access to Pandora (NYS: P) streaming, will smartphone owners feel compelled to pay $12.95 a month -- or $14.49 a month next year -- for Sirius XM? After all, Ford is now perpetually sending out software updates that make its Web-tethered product better and better.

Well, if there's one saving grace for Sirius XM beyond its ability to afford proprietary content, then it's that hungry automakers rely on Sirius XM to share the revenue of activated receivers. Sirius XM has even been able to strike deals with automakers to promote satellite radio in their pre-owned cars. In other words, while there's an incentive to give consumers what they want by making cars smarter, the last thing that automakers want to do is slay satellite radio.

Sirius XM 2.0 will be a big part of the satellite radio giant's response, and it too will lend itself to software upgrades to keep up with the ad-supported Joneses. Dashboard technology may be a threat to Sirius XM right now, but it will also ultimately be an opportunity.

If you want to see how Sirius XM stands up to the stream teams addSIRIUS XM Radioto My Watchlist.

At the time this article was published Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Ford. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford Motor.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Ford Motor. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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