Reception fading for antennas

DETROIT --- An automotive appendage that often goes unnoticed -- unless it loses a battle with the automatic car wash -- is disappearing in the face of changing technology, tastes and economics.

The stalwart stick, pole or fixed-mast antenna, mounted on the fender of nearly every vehicle two decades ago, is on about half of all new models and its ranks are dwindling. When trucks are removed from the equation, it's around 25 percent.

Its vanishing act is notable on many new vehicles. The 2008 Ford Taurus, for example, has a hidden, in-glass antenna and optional small, roof-mounted satellite radio antenna.

"There's an industrywide push to move away from a metal mast antenna," said Ford Motor Co. spokesman Alan Hall.

The stick antenna faces interference on several fronts: Designers seek to erase anything that detracts from sleek lines; engineers want to eliminate the drag that increases noise and decreases gas mileage; and consumers desire signals for their cellular phones, satellite radios and global-positioning system devices.

GOING, GOING ...

The traditional fender-mounted mast antenna is disappearing from cars in favor of other options:

- Rooftop-mounted antenna

- Hidden, in-glass antenna

- Hybrid antenna that combines roof-mounted with in-glass

- Next-generation, multifunctional antenna, with several of them concealed throughout the vehicle

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