Walk into any auto parts store and check out the available scents to deodorize your car. Chances are, you’ll find air fresheners that claim to smell “new car.” Have you ever wondered why someone would want that new car smell in a ten year old car, or maybe use it in your own car?
You are not alone. When asked, most people will say it’s an intoxicating scent that they love. The nice thing is in the way car manufacturers deliver it. Do you know what Nissan employees go through to ensure the best new car smell?
The allure of a new car fragrance
When you first get behind the wheel of a new car and take a deep breath, you smell something fresh, new and unlike anything else your nose has encountered. It’s indescribable to most people because the smell of a new car isn’t as definable as the smell of coffee or pine, but it’s no less noticeable.
Unfortunately, the smell fades quickly and most people want it back. There are some companies that have made the fragrance, but what exactly is it that brings us so much joy?
The science behind it is simple, but complex. What you smell in that new car doesn’t sound as pleasant as it smells. Your car’s interior is a mixture of plastics, leather, bonding materials, adhesives, chemicals to make them stain resistant and more.
The odor is actually those materials that “gas out”, causing the odor to only last for a short time. However, there’s a fine line between the intoxicating scent that most people love and those gases that are enough to make you nauseous. Nissan employees do a lot to make sure it’s just right.
How Nissan creates the perfect new car scent
Just imagine if you had a job before, during and after assembly where your sole purpose was snooping through individual parts of a vehicle. That’s the job of Tori Keerl, a materials engineer at Nissan and “certified stench,” and others like her.
According to CNNKeerl says they should test its smell every time they launch a vehicle. They sniff steering wheels, seat cushions, visors and more before being placed in a vehicle. Once those items are in the vehicle, Keerl and her team get into it to make sure it has the overall appealing smell people want rather than a more offensive one.
When a vehicle’s smell isn’t perfect, the team must re-sniff different parts to figure out where the smell is most offensive and remove that part. It basically works the same way you would detect a foul odor in your home or vehicle. You sit in it and sniff every inch until you discover where the smell is.
Once this foul smell is located and the part removed, they should try to figure out why the material or combination of materials is causing it. In most cases, the unpleasant odor can be traced to “a supplier who has changed some aspect of the way the part is made”. It then becomes Keerl’s job to find out what has changed and how to fix the problem.
How to imitate the smell of a new car from Nissan?
Completely replicating the new car scent is not 100% possible. It depends on the interior material of your new vehicle. Cars with cloth seats can smell like cloth protectors. Those with leather or wood will have that smell.
The smell we most associate with “new car” was a gas from the vinyl seats that older cars had and are no longer used in today’s vehicles. It produced acetone, benzene, toluene and styrene gases, which are toxic VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). This means we should get the same “happy” feeling when we smell a new shower curtain or vinyl tablecloth.
Automakers, like Nissan, are trying to reduce those noxious odors, while still giving new car owners that luxurious scent. This can be done by infusing plastic with additional flavors or blowing fragrance into the plastic seat covers during transit.
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