Some Mazda owners out in Western Washington are experiencing an issue perhaps even more absurd than Honda navigation systems that are stuck in 2002. These drivers are faced with having to listen to nothing but National Public Radio after an errant signal broke their radios.
Over the last couple of weeks, a number of owners of 2014 to 2017 Mazdas all tuned their HD Radios to 94.9 KUOW, one of the Puget Sound’s public radio stations. Perhaps they wanted to catch up on the latest This American Life or maybe a replay of Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me! Regardless of why they tuned in, they soon found that their radios wanted to play nothing but NPR, the Seattle Times reports.
Seattle Times interviewed owners, including Dave Welding, the driver of a 2016 Mazda hatch:
Somehow the signal the station sent to the modern HD Radio that’s part of the Mazda infotainment center had, as Welding puts it, “fried” a major component.
That frying made the radios only play KUOW. No chance of catching a little classic rock or some Dori soliloquies. KUOW. Forever.
The component dealers say is involved is the Connectivity Master Unit. It’s a $1,500 part that controls video and audio signals for the infotainment system.
And don’t think that these people have an easy way out by simply using Bluetooth. No, this issue doesn’t just make NPR the only station that plays, but it also breaks functions like navigation, Bluetooth, the clock, reverse camera and the car’s information menu. So, you just get NPR and nothing but NPR. I really hope you like NPR.
Perhaps even more annoying than being stuck on a single station is the fact that some radios are stuck in a distracting boot loop. One owner described what it’s like:
“The lower right field of my vision was seeing like a TV screen going on and off,” he says. Over and over, the screen showed the Mazda logo, then there would be a flash, then the logo split into five new logos.
Mazda confirmed with Seattle Times that something in the radio signal impacted the software of 2014-2017 Mazda models. The automaker has not said if the issue is the CMU, but in a statement to GeekWire it noted:
“Between 1/24-1/31, a radio station in the Seattle area sent image files with no extension, which caused an issue on some 2014-2017 Mazda vehicles with older software,” the Mazda statement said. “Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) has distributed service alerts advising dealers of the issue.”
Those image files may be used for audio information like album covers. It’s one of the benefits you get with digital radio broadcasts. The infotainment systems are apparently unable to handle these poorly formatted files, resulting in a failure of the system. I’ve reached out to Mazda for comment and will update if I hear back.
Meanwhile, KUOW is working with Xperi Holding Corporation, the parent company of HD Radio, to figure out what the station did wrong.
Local dealerships say that replacing the CMU — if it’s found to be the faulty part — isn’t just $1,500 but they don’t even have any. Mazda acknowledges that its dealers are facing parts shortages, so this could take time to fix.
Thankfully, whenever the true cause is found and the parts come in, Mazda says that dealerships can submit a goodwill request to its warranty department and schedule free repairs.
In the meantime, these Mazda owners are going to get more NPR than they ever pledged for.