Here’s an example: Ever experience the satisfying thud of closing a 1980s BMW door? There’s a heft to those doors that makes them feel solid. Substantial. You’re safe here. This car is well-made.
Yet we all know that even high-end cars have lost a lot of that extra heft, largely thanks to advances in automotive safety, as AutoBead co-founder James Ford explained to Mel:
Engineering the sound of a car door closing can be traced back to changes in the car manufacturing industry 10 years ago. Increased safety measures meant that car manufacturers had to add extra bars to the side doors to meet safety regulations, which subsequently impacted the sound that doors made while closing
So, while your car may be safer now, automakers know that you associate that meaty clunk with quality.
Less expensive cars have emulated this, too. The author of the Mel story talks about how satisfying the sound of his 2012 Nissan Sentra’s door slamming is, and a Sentra is about as far from a luxury car as you can get without buying something like a Mitsubishi Mirage or a Kandi Coco.
“One of the first things a prospective car buyer encounters is the sound of the driver’s door closing — often inside the showroom. This sound gives a subconscious sense of value,” music professor Jonathan Berger explained to Mel.
Berger, who works in the Stanford University Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, has even tested out this theory by making students in his psychoacoustics class rank different car doors from most to least expensive based solely on the sound of their doors. Respondents claimed that the low, soft thuds with an after-sound of some sort (the example Berger gave with a “ker-chunk”) came off as the fanciest. A Purdue University survey from 2016 cited by Mel came to a similar conclusion: tinny-sounding door slams came off as cheap and flimsy.