‘New car smell’ may be an intrinsic part of the buying process for UK and American buyers, but Chinese buyers are understood to dislike the odour so much that Ford has filed a patent application to eliminate or reduce it.
New car smell is caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emanating from plastics, leather and vinyl in a new car, plus adhesives, glass cleaners and sealants used in the manufacturing process.
The removal of these VOCs – and by extension the reduction of new car smell – can be accelerated by heat. To take advantage of this, Ford’s ‘Vehicle Odor Elimination’ patent application describes a system that automatically measures VOC levels shortly after a new car has been purchased.
If these exceed a predetermined limit, the car will automatically find and drive itself to a sunny spot, open its windows and run its heater and ventilation fan to help clear the smell.
Ford hired a team of 18 smell assessors in July last year, with the experts based in the company’s Nanjing research facility in China. The company’s ‘golden noses’ carry out 300 tests each year, rating the pleasantness or unpleasantness of all materials used in a car.
Debbie Mielewski, a senior technical leader in materials sustainability at Ford, told Detroit Free Press: “While ‘new car smell’ is ingrained in American culture, we know Chinese customers dislike that scent. This patent is the result of years of research and is just one idea we are considering for future use”.
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