New car smell is a signature scent that many recognize. It’s as well-known as pine trees, fresh flowers, or the ocean breeze. For many car enterprises, actual engineers are hired so that a vehicle’s interior has that signature scent. At Nissan, the automobile business wants to ensure the mix of plastics, leathers, and other materials combine for that quintessential car smell.
Tori Keerl, a material engineer for Nissan, oversees a group of scent experts to ensure that every model has that distinguishable new car small. She works at Nissan’s technical center in Michigan, where the main job is to review car materials for their odors, cleanability, and sustainability. Originally hired as the plastic engineer, Keerl now is the head of the odor department, carefully looking over every Nissan model to guarantee the scents are pleasant and recognizable.
Keerl makes sure that every vehicle launched has that new car smell. As the model develops, the odor team sniffs and scrutinizes every material involved. The parts that these exports must sniff include seat lining, steering wheels, cushions, and visors, to name a few. After the car has been completed, the team will enter the vehicle and close the doors to see if the iconic new car scent is present and acceptable. Every seat in the car is tested out to ensure the smell is the same throughout the vehicle.
For many who didn’t know engineers were testing out the new car smell, it is an arduous and meticulous job. Scents can even change depending on where you sit in the car, the temperature, and the time, so every factor must be considered before a vehicle’s launch. Keerl noted that the front seat has the most considerable access to various smells, from the plastics on the dashboard to the seat covers. Bonding materials like threads and adhesives also impact the scent of the vehicle, making the driver’s seat the trickiest place to perfect the car smell. If you’re in the backseat, you’re likely only sniffing the seat materials.
Though Keerl’s team pre-sniffs all materials before entering the finished vehicles, the combination of different substances may create a funkier new car smell than intended. When an offputting smell is identified after the car has been assembled, the team methodically stiffs the whole car and all of its interior materials. Once they find the spot that has the offending odor, the group begins to identify all the substances involved in that particular area.
The usual culprit of a different new car smell usually involves a supplier change. Since the odor team has previously sniffed out each piece of the car, a supplier replacing its products’ materials is likely the cause of an unknown scent modification. If this is the issue, Keerl and her team will work with the supplier to determine what materials have changed during the manufacturing process.
The new car smell is undoubtedly identifiable, but many don’t know that there’s a lot of time and effort that goes into perfecting the scent. For Keerl and the rest of her odor team at Nissan, readying a car for its market launch is a challenging, disciplined process that only succeeds due to years of experience.