The following article is part of the GM Authority Opinion Desk series, where our authors share what is on their minds.
You’re driving your 2015 Cadillac CTS to an exclusive party at the breathtaking Mohonk Mountain House. As you arrive and drive past a few guests, you notice that your sexy CTS is getting second looks and your arrival has been noticed. And why not — the CTS is such a sexy car. You park in a private parking lot reserved for the event among a vast assortment of imported luxury cars: BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Maserati, Lexus… you name it. As you exit your CTS in that perfectly-fitting, ironed suit, you notice that you have an audience, thanks to your car, no less. You shut the door of your CTS. The LED light bars on the handles are still glowing. Your stature among partygoers increases even more. As you approach the party, you depress the lock button on that nice-looking Cadillac key fob to lock the doors; the doors lock, while also activating the “chirp”, which in the case of the CTS, and that of every Cadillac made today, produces an ugly and unappealing instance of the horn.
As the partygoers turn to identify the object that has disturbed the serenity of the event, you notice that the colorful birds who were complementing the backdrop and singing beautiful lullabies fly away. The loud and unrefined horn of your CTS scared them off.
The story isn’t a figment of our imaginations. It actually happened to one of our editors a few months ago. And though it’s just one example, we’re certain that it’s not the only one.
We’ll just come out and say it: Cadillac needs to do away with the horn-based “chirp”.
Horn-based chirps might be okay in mainstream cars but they are out of place in luxury cars. Need reasons? We can think of some:
- A horn-based chirp is loud, obnoxious, and completely unrefined. Simply put, it is the antithesis of luxury, style or elegance.
- A horn-based chirp is generic and commonplace; it shows a lack of creativity on the part of the people responsible for the car, and a certain oversight of a minor, yet important, detail.
The problem is intensified when we consider the fact that Cadillacs also use the horn chirp to notify the driver that the key fob has been left in the vehicle, as well as to notify the driver if the vehicle is still running upon the driver’s door being shut. Just last week, we even observed a Cadillac SRX driver sticking her index finger into her ear in hopes of muting some of the dreadfully-loud triple-horn-chirp.
But what is perhaps more important than anything else is the opportunity Cadillac is forfeiting by using the generic and anonymous horn-based chirp. Which brings us to the question: what if Cadillac had its own unique and proprietary chirp that was only used on its own cars?
Whenever such a chirp would sound, everyone in the vicinity of the vehicle would instantly know that the vehicle making the sound is a Cadillac. It would be a chirp that Caddy owners would sound off with pride.
This is exactly what Audi has done with its latest-generation vehicles. The “chirping” sound has become known as the “Audi Chirp” among some owners and enthusiasts. Observe:
In essence, Cadillac should create a uniquely-identifiable chirp of its own and make it a strong brand differentiator.
Those who will disagree with us on this subject will probably say something to the effect of, “Cadillac has other problems to address”, or “No one cares about the chirp”.
To those we say: the devil is in the details, especially when it comes to luxury cars. And this is one detail that’s fairly easy to fix. It’s not like we’re asking for three all-new crossover models by the end of March (which Cadillac desperately needs, but is significantly more resource- and time-intensive to deliver). And though a chirp seems like a minor detail at first, it is one part of a vehicle that every owner comes into contact with almost every time they exit and lock the vehicle. Why not make the most of that sound and the associated experience?
Come to think of it, the sounds a product makes (such as car’s “chirp”) are often what define that product in the eyes of the consumer and owner. Cadillac already does so much to ensure that its vehicles are quiet, free of rattles, and have amazing sound systems. So it should look at the chirp as an opportunity to further improve the customer experience and further distinguish/brand its product.
The Time Is Now
For the first time in decades, Cadillac is finally being given the autonomy within GM that it deserves. It is also making amazing cars that truly rival and sometimes beat their German and Japanese competition.
And so, the time is now for Cadillac to take all of the excellent things it is already doing, and move them one small, yet important step further. And giving Cadillacs their own uniquely-identifiable chirp is that one small, yet important step that should be addressed as soon as possible. Because no one wants to be the guy whose car scares away the birds.