Auto journalists have been talking about “how much nicer Korean cars have gotten” for so long it’s almost annoying to mention, but one aspect I’ve really appreciated about modern Hyundai, Genesis, and Kias that I never hear about is how lovely their welcome chimes (also known as Sonic Logos) are. It’s a big deal!
The world is really bleak for a lot of people. We’re coming off a pandemic that’s killed millions, inflation looks imminent, the used car and housing market are completely topsy-turvy, and socializing has become stressful as we exit our homes and enter the world again. Our cars — they’ve got to be fun. A car can be a refuge, a safe space to shut all the crap out from the world, at least until your next destination. It should be a welcoming space.
Over the past maybe five to seven years, Hyundai and Kia have made their cars a bit more welcoming, by use of welcome and goodbye chimes. Like the iconic startup and shutdown tones from your favorite Windows operating system, modern Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis cars have startup and shutdown tones.
Hyundai’s startup chime seems to have started with the Veloster, as seen here. You even got options for what startup sound you wanted!
Hyundai took some time to get a fixed welcome jingle for its vehicles. It seems like things went without rhyme or reason, Santa Fes, Genesis, Tuscons, Sonatas, all had different jingles.
I reached out to Hyundai, to ask where the concept of a welcome jingle came from. Michele Tinson, a PR rep for Hyundai USA, relayed my question to the company’s Korean HQ and got back to me with this (edited for clarity):
“[Our] first Sonic Logo was applied in 2009, there were several Sonic Logos representing each brand. Intel with 4 different notes, Audi with [its heartbeat] sound, BMW with metal knocking sound ([which] has changed recently). Like Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s Mac opening sound, we tried to clearly convey brand value/identity to customers by applying [a] sonic logo when starting the engine. We named these sonic logo[s] as ‘Welcome Sound’ to functionally share expression of welcoming the driver,” I was told via via email.
“We tried to make a perfect harmony with [the] visual image [and] brand’s creative concept. [The] welcome sound is designed to express characteristics that are harmonious, emotional, warmful, confident and natural. [The] melody consists of [six] different [notes], from ‘E’ to ‘C#’. Despite the minor scale, elevating scales generate [a] friendly and [warm] atmosphere. [2.5-second]-long piano sounds express [a] comfortable and dynamic feeling.”
Have other vehicles emulated Hyundai’s welcome chime? Eh, the jury’s out — but Toyota’s got a nifty start-up animation and sound for the Prius Prime.
Now, these welcome jingles can be turned off for most any Hyundai, Kia, or Genesis vehicle, but why would you want to get rid of them? The jingles, or “Sonic Logos” as Hyundai’s people said, remind me of an era now bygone; when every video game console had its own distinct startup sound. As a kid, I’d sit in awe of the Sony Playstation’s THX-esque bruuum-boom hum, blasting out my parents’ speakers on their Sanyo TV. That sound let me know that “this is the game, the video game is starting, fool.” Similar to that, I think these driving welcome chimes would tell me “this is time for driving, it’s driving time fool,” which means it’s time to focus on the road!
Cars should be a happy place to be. C’mon automakers, give us more welcome jingles!