by Jeff Gilbert
WWJ AutoBeat Reporter

DEARBORN (WWJ) Americans have found that if they want to do business in emerging markets, not only do their cars have to be attractive, so do the sounds of the horns.

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“While here in the United States, we tend to use our horn more as a response to a traffic event going on in front of you, in other markets, there’s a lot more extreme usage,” says Patricia Seashore, an electronics supervisor at Ford.


(Video: Different horn sounds for different vehicles.)

Ford, and other automakers have done more than just observe how people use their horns in these markets, they’ve put sensors on the vehicles to get exact data. And, Seashore says, drivers in the most extreme countries use their horns a lot more than Americans, who tend to honk the least of all drivers.

“For example in China and India, where we may use our horns for fifty thousand cycles in a lifetime, they are going to use their horns for something like a million,” she said.

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That means the horns must be more durable, and each market has it own tastes. Seashore says South Americans like more of a “beep beep” sound, while the many Chinese buyers like their horns tuned to their personal tastes.

Drivers in large Chinese cities also tend to drive with one hand on the wheel and another on the horn. In India, the horn is often used as a turn signal. It’s important, Seashore says, because of the mix of vehicles on Indian roads.

“You not only have cars, but you have mopeds and motorcycles and tripods and you have bicycles,” she said. “You have a lot of different vehicles sharing these roads, and they all have their own horns.”

There are variances within countries. Seashore says urban areas, with denser populations see more use of horns, and there are regional differences.

“New York City, sure you might hear more horns,” said Seashore. “But, drive through Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, maybe not so much.”

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Follow Jeff Gilbert on Twitter @jefferygilbert