DON’T you just love the smell of a new car?

Westerners have forever swooned from the leather, plastic, cloth, wood or whatever is used in car construction.

Open the door of a new one and it’s a wondrous aroma — except it’s quite the opposite for Chinese.

They absolutely loathe that smell, and Ford is so worried about it that it has filed a patent application for a process that removes it.

It has even hired some Chinese with exceptional smell detection (they call them ‘golden noses’) to sniff car parts and identify those with any scent they deem offensive.

JD Power says more than 10 per cent of drivers in China — now by far the world’s largest car market — complained about the new-car smell in its 2018 survey.

“Unpleasant interior smell remains the top industry problem in that market,” JD Power senior director, global automotive, Brent Gruber, said.

“To put that in context, it is nearly double the problem rate of the second most prevalent problem, excessive fuel consumption.”

Chinese consumers are said to regard new-car odour as a bigger problem than fuel guzzling and wind roar, as some worry the smell could be a health hazard.

And they could be right.

According to Ford’s patent application, the new-car smell is caused primarily by the release of gases from volatile organic compounds used the vehicle’s construction materials, such as plastic, leather, and vinyl.

Adhesives, glass cleaners, and sealants may also be contributory factors.

The US Environmental Protection Agency says exposure to those volatile organic compounds can have health effects ranging from headaches to memory impairment.

The process detailed by Ford in its patent application proposes using heat to speed up what they call ‘off-gassing’ by leaving the car in the sun with windows open, turning on the heater,  the fan, or running the engine.

Sensors would determine if the intensity of the sunlight and the ambient temperature are high enough to trigger the off-gassing and to measure the level of the compounds creating the offensive pong.

Ford says it does not have specific plans to deploy the technology in its vehicles yet.

Well, why then would they employ 18 golden noses and take out a patent to prevent the offending (to Chinese) smell?

“This patent is the result of years of research and is just one idea we are considering for future use,” Ford’s senior technical leader in materials sustainability, Debbie Mielewski, said.

Love her job title.

The smell problem was attacked by Lincoln some years ago when it fitted its products with charcoal canisters in an attempt to remove every whiff.

Guess that was part of the ‘years of research’ mentioned by Debbie.

And what about the car air-freshener companies?

Quite a few of them do big business selling colourful little containers that clip on to the aircon vent to offer exactly what the Chinese hate?

The French often fit a perfume dispenser in their cars, with a variety of aromas and refills for when they run out.

CHECKOUT: Volvo dreams of a plugged in China

CHECKOUT: Plans for supersonic electric train


Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.