Ford’s New Patent Aims to Banish the ‘New Car Smell’ So Many Love

While Americans seem to love that particularly plastic-clad smell, drivers in China downright hate it.

byElizabeth Puckett|
Ford News photo

Due to negative feedback from car buyers in China, a patent signals that Ford has come up with a plan to get rid of the "new car smell" that shoppers in other countries take pride in or consider a "milestone" for buying a brand-new car.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Chinese consumers seem to be particularly sensitive to the distinct odor of a brand new vehicle. In fact, drivers in China don't just dislike the smell, they seem to downright hate it, citing it as the number one complaint about new cars. 

“Unpleasant interior smell/odor remains the top industry problem in that market,” said Brent Gruber, senior director, global automotive, at J.D. Power. “To put that in context, it is nearly double the problem rate of the second most prevalent problem, excessive fuel consumption.”

While a solution has been in the works for some time, the automaker's patent appears to automate the removal of the new car smell. Basically, Ford wants to bake the smell out of their cars for the local market, and the process is exactly what it sounds like. 

The automated system would park the new cars in the sun and open the windows for it to air out. Software may also run the engine and blast the heat and air conditioning to assist in dispensing the smell out of the car. Interestingly enough, the technology for the patent to operate is only found on future self-driving and semi-autonomous cars—so it's clearly a solution that Ford doesn't expect to roll out any time soon. In a nutshell, the patent implies that if the car sees a chance to sunbathe and cycle to get rid of the smell, it will do just that.

This system of allowing the car to bake itself is based on where the smells originate. See, when you take a big whiff of the new car smell, you’re just smelling a variety of chemicals and components like leather, plastic, vinyl, and so on. The smells get stronger with heat since the odor comes off in stronger doses at higher temperatures. Eventually, all the fumes are cooked off, and the scent goes away—so it’s easy to see where Ford got the idea of how to get rid of the smell.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the new-car smell is one of the most popular scents for air fresheners, and many products cater to people who want to maintain it or add it to an older car vehicle.