How car manufacturers get that ‘new car smell’

Anyone who has sat in a new car will know that distinctive ‘new car smell’.

You might think that this is simply a natural by-product of fitting all those new materials to a vehicle, but the reality is that car manufacturers pay deliberate attention to the odours that emanate from its factory-fresh cabins.

Nissan has just shared details of what goes into this process. The new Qashqai crossover went on sale this summer, so has just been put through the firm’s rigorous odour evaluation process.

Peter Karl Eastland is the lead engineer for this process, and is tasked with ensuring new car customers have a positive response to the interior’s smell.

Peter Karl Eastland, Nissan

He says: “We aim to provide the best sensory experience for the customer. While tastes and preferences evolve over time, smell remains a constant. Therefore, it is part of our job to make sure that any material we use is always going to be perfect in terms of scent and that all of the senses are harmonised.”

David Moss, senior vice president for Nissan’s region research and development, added: “That new car smell isn’t just a consequence of the manufacturing process; months of work are devoted throughout the development phase of the new vehicle to carefully analyse the use of materials and chemicals, such as seat fabric, adhesives, and polymers, to ensure that they don’t combine to generate an unpleasant odour for the car’s occupants.”

The odour team will work with each of the materials in the cabin to see how their smell is affected by changes in temperature and other atmospheric conditions. If they notice a negative response, they’ll work to find an alternative material.

This is not a small program, either. Eastland’s team is not alone at Nissan, with counterparts in Atsugi, Japan and Farmington Hills, United States.

Nissan is not the only manufacturer to have staff dedicated to perfecting the new car smell. Audi has the brilliantly titled Nose Team, whose job is essentially the same as those at Nissan.

The team has been in place since 1985 and is tasked with ensuring customer comfort is not compromised by irritating smells.