It is not enough to talk about automobiles on the air.
That is what Ken Chester of the nationally syndicated radio show RoadWorthy Drive found out in July of 2015. Chester would soon host a two-hour-long Saturday morning program on WHO-AM in Des Moines Iowa. Chester explained that his contact at the station said, "I don't want you to talk just about cars. I want you to talk about community too." This gentleman at WHO simply handed Chester "[a] 50,000-watt radio station on a Saturday morning for me to talk about whatever my little heart desires with no limits, no guidelines, nothing. And I freaked out for two and a half months."
Now in his fifth year, Chester hosts two shows every week for dozens of affiliates nationwide. It all began with his first affiliate in Topeka, Kansas – KMAJ-AM – in 2016. From there, his show is now heard nationwide, including across Iowa and several stations here in Minnesota. Chester's show is heard in smaller cities and rural communities, with some using Neilsen’s measuring service for ratings. No information was available at this time on ratings for his show.
RoadWorthy Drive continues to grow. Chester’s newest affiliates in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Johnson City, Tennessee should be airing his program shortly.
What is RoadWorthy Drive all about?
"I like to say that we're not your father's car show," Chester explains. "We're a mobility show. And, I take a wide definition of mobility. I mean, to be obvious, anything that moves from walking to spacecraft, electric vehicles, fossil fuel-powered vehicles, and any technology. The variety of different battery technologies and chemistry that's out there, we've talked about."
For example, Chester explains in his show how the future of mobility will take shape in the years to come. "We talk about the electrical grid at length," Chester said, "because, in the next three to five years, there is a raft, a tsunami, if you will, of electric vehicles coming to market. And that is going to put pressure on the electrical grid. And some of the naysayers, it brought up the point with how green can an electric car be if the power that is generated to charge it wasn't produced green as well? And we point to companies like Minnesota Power in Minnesota, [MidAmerica Energy] here in Iowa. [MidAmerica Energy] will be a hundred percent renewable power generation this year. Minnesota Power is 50% already renewable, right now."
Other topics Chester and RoadWorthy Drive dives into focuses on privacy and security issues related to automobiles, as well as discussing the "Right to Repair Movement." As to what Chester has to say about these issues, you just have to listen. And, yes, he has a lot to say on his show about these topics and more.
Speaking of listening, Chester began to put his shows through the various podcast portals, including Google Podcasts, Buzzsprout, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and TuneIn Radio. Chester stated that he is working through getting his show on Apple Podcasts, as well. The shows available are the full hour program and a shorter format version, called RoadWorthy Drive Moments.
There is also a chance we will see Chester and RoadWorthy Drive on television sometime in the future. "It's growing the business big enough to attract the national advertisers to fund all this," explained Chester, "which is always a challenge."
I am proud to call him one of my esteemed colleagues. Chester is also a juror for the Victory & Reseda Vehicle of The Year award.
There are other similar radio shows that talk about automobiles. In Chicago, the team from DriveChicago – part of the production company behind the Chicago Auto Show and the area’s dealer association – have their Saturday slot on WLS-AM. Plus, the Consumer Guide staff have their radio show/podcast on WCPT-AM in Chicago on Sunday, as well. That show is also available as a podcast. Let’s not forget about another show, "Our Auto Expert" hosted by my colleague Nik Miles, is on every Saturday on KPAM-AM in Portland, Oregon.
No matter which program you tune into, there’s plenty of radio and podcast content that will keep you informed and entertained about the automotive world. If you’re looking for much more than just automobiles, listen to Ken Chester and RoadWorthy Drive. You might even discover there is more to your vehicle and mobility than you think.
Cover photo by Randy Stern, credit: RoadWorthy Drive Productions