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Ford behind drive for 1 million new Sirius users

Automaker will offer factory-installed radio as an option in four vehicle lines this summer, plus more over two years.

More than three-fourths of the autos rolling off Ford and Lincoln Mercury assembly lines will have factory-installed Sirius satellite radios as an option by 2007, the automaker predicted Tuesday.

The Detroit-based carmaker said it intends to sign up at least 1 million new users for Sirius during 2006 and 2007. That number is almost equal to the total subscriptions the satellite radio firm has garnered during its three years of existence.

To begin with, Sirius radio will be offered as an option in four Ford models: Ford F-150, Ford Explorer, Lincoln Mark LT and Mercury Mountaineer by 2006. Within a year, 17 more Ford and Lincoln Mercury vehicle lines will be added to the list. In total, about 80 percent of all Ford and Lincoln Mercury vehicles will have Sirius as a factory-installed option.

The companies have yet to announce pricing for the scheme, which includes a subscription for six months or longer.

Sirius, with 1.1 million satellite radio users, is locked in stiff competition with market leader XM satellite radio. Both firms grew handsomely in 2004, but the growth of XM was even more spectacular, with its subscriber base leaping from 1.3 million to 3.1 million in the last 12 months.

Both XM and Sirius have exclusive deals with a number of carmakers. While XM has giants such as General Motors and Honda in its camp, Sirius has exclusive arrangements with BMW, Mazda and Volvo. Sirius also recently signed up Mercedes.