Touting Our Own Horns: Humble Honker Far More Than Just a Beep or Blast at Ford
Patricia Seashore doesn’t like to sound off about it, but she knows better than most that there’s more to a vehicle horn than a simple beep-beep or honk-honk. Patricia Seashore is Ford's Design & Release supervisor.
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- Around the world, Ford customers have unique horn-blowing behaviors
- In North America, customers use their horns less often than elsewhere in the world – typically as a way to greet neighbors and locate their vehicles in parking lots
- In other parts of the world, horns get more use – often as a traffic signal – and are made of disc horns, which have a longer life
DEARBORN, Mich., May 17, 2011 – Patricia Seashore doesn’t like to sound off about it, but she knows better than most that there’s more to a vehicle horn than a simple beep-beep or honk-honk.
In fact, this deceptively simple device actually takes into consideration customer horn-blowing behavior and its impact on the horn itself, including the amount of use, tonality and, sometimes, even physics.
“As Ford has expanded globally, we now have an increased awareness of what a horn is used for in all of our markets,” said Seashore, Design & Release supervisor. “It’s not the same all over the world.”
In some parts of Europe, vehicles get two horns – on the steering wheel for traffic and on the back of the vehicle as an anti-theft system.
In North America, more and more customers are adapting their horn usage into a friendly greeting, and they want the horn to sound that way.
“We’re getting away from using horns strictly as a warning,” she said. “You’ll hear them, of course, when someone gets cut off, or when something aggressive is happening in traffic. But you hear them, too, when people honk at a neighbor to say ‘Hi,’ or when they pull in a driveway to pick someone up.”
Also in North America, owners use their horns as a locking confirmation to make sure their car is locked before they walk away, as well as a locator to find their vehicle in a crowded parking lot.
As a result, North American customers want a richer tone in their horns. That’s why they are trumpet horns, named for the plastic trumpet on them that attenuates the sound and makes it more melodic. Most vehicles have dual trumpet horns, tuned to frequencies that are not unpleasant, but are just slightly discordant.
“While we don’t want the sound to be too bristly, we don’t want it to be too pleasant either,” Seashore said. “We want it to, you know, grab people’s attention a little.”
Trumpet horns aren’t the best solution for all vehicles. In South America, customers want a horn they can honk frequently in short stints, like a quick beep-beep.
In India, horns get far heavier use as drivers use them to help navigate through congested traffic and on less developed roads.
“We use a disc horn, which has a longer life, in a vehicle where the horn is part of daily driving,” Seashore said.
Then there are customers who want both.
“In China, customers drive with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the horn. The horn is huge,” said Seashore. “They use their horn extensively – but they want it to sound nice. So there we use something we call an electronic trumpet. It’s a technology solution.”
Global markets also bring climate concerns.
“China has one of the most extreme set of conditions, including cold temperatures and roads at 15,000-feet altitude,” said Seashore. “So we’re not only looking at customers’ preferences, we must look at the physical environment of where the car is being driven.
“Altitude and temperatures affect the way sound waves travel – that’s just physics.”
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 166,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.