The Quest for the Perfect Car Scent

No other sense has the power to evoke emotions like the sense of smell. Being the most sensitive and powerful of the five senses, it is the most tied to memory and emotion. Did you know it affects 75% of our daily emotions and can influence mood, well-being, and pleasure? Who hasn’t been drawn into a café by the smell of baking bread or freshly brewed coffee?

For us, smell is a crucial aspect of delivering high quality vehicles to customers. About 300 odor tests are conducted each year on materials and components that go into our cars to ensure they smell just right!

And, these tests are run by a prestigious 18-member team we call The Super Smellers at our Asia Pacific odor laboratory in Nanjing, China.  The selection for this panel is a gruelling process. Every year we run an application process to select a team from across departments. They are asked to judge material samples in 16 jars and come with a list of prerequisites qualifications. And that’s not all! The Super Smellers must re-qualify annually to maintain their position on the panel and must be available to attend regular odor tests throughout the year.

Our Super Smellers should have the following qualities to ensure that their senses are not compromised:

  • No Smoking
  • Cannot have allergies
  • No one with Sinus issues
  • Love perfume? Can’t wear it
  • Say good bye to those nicely scented shampoos
  • Put that leather jacket in the back of your closet

From bean jars to odor chambers

To test how a car will smell when it is mass manufactured, our Super Smellers test material samples using simple domestic tools – glass jars and ovens – while replicating real world conditions. No stones are left unturned to make sure there are no surprises when the cars finally roll off the assembly line.

Different markets, different smells

Scents don’t smell the same to everyone; blame it on genetics, which is why we have odor labs in the U.S., Europe and Asia Pacific, to make sure our vehicles appealing to customers all over the world.

Everything used in our cars – like seat fabric, plastics or carpet – is odor tested. We believe materials should have an odor that is perceptible, but not disturbing. If anything is deemed too smelly, we work with the supplier to remedy the issue.

Want to learn more about car smells? Check out this video on our Super Smellers, or about the Fabric of Ford here.