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Fine-Tuning A Brand's Signature Sound

Companies turn an ear toward improving the rings and pings in their products

When Derrick M. Kuzak became Ford Motor Co.'s (F ) global chief for product development in 2005, he didn't like what he was hearing. It wasn't hostile car reviews that bothered Kuzak. It was the insipid gong chimes that greeted a potential buyer when the door of a Ford was opened as well as the rickety sound produced when it was shut.

So the Ford Taurus hitting the showrooms now has a new latch system that will make a vault-like sound when the door closes. Next year's Ford Flex SUV will greet drivers with a symphonic door chime. "Customers are incredibly attuned to the sounds of quality, but we weren't, and I think it was costing us," says Kuzak. The innovations on the Taurus and Flex will be rolled out across the rest of Ford's lineup over the next three years.