updated 1/4/2005 8:54:58 PM ET 2005-01-05T01:54:58

Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. Chief Executive Mel Karmazin vowed this week to double subscribers in 2005, and on Tuesday he took a major step toward meeting that target after Ford Motor Co. agreed to factory-install receivers in up to 21 vehicle lines this summer.

The nation's second-largest satellite radio firm — now locked in a fierce battle with rival XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. — expects to pick up some 1 million subscribers through its deal with Ford. The automobile manufacturer will install Sirius receivers in model years 2006 and 2007.

Ford is planning to install Sirius in a number of popular models, including the Ford Explorer, Lincoln Mark LT, Mercury Mountaineer, and its best-selling F-150 pickup trucks. The auto maker expects about 80 percent of all Ford and Lincoln Mercury vehicles will have Sirius as a factory-installed option.

"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," Karmazin said in a statement.

Each Ford or Mercury sold with the factory equipped Sirius will include a six month, or longer, subscription. Ford and Sirius said they would detail pricing plans at a later date.

Karmazin, a successful radio veteran and former president of Viacom Inc. who was lured to Sirius in November, said Monday the company beat expectations by ending the year with more than 1.1 million subscribers. The digital radio company told Wall Street it expects to double the number of subscribers in 2005 to above 2 million — a large jump from the 260,000 it started 2004 with.

Contributing to that subscriber growth is radio shock jock Howard Stern, who was signed to a five-year contract worth some $500 million last October. He will join a network with more than 120 channels of commercial-free music, talk shows, news, and sports.

Although Sirius logged a number of accomplishments during 2004, the competition against XM Satellite Radio remains stiff. XM Satellite Radio surpassed its 2004 goal of achieving 3.1 million subscribers, and the company also struck deals with Toyota and General Motors to add even more by factory installing its receivers in new car models.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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