One of the interesting things about buying a car is that new car smell. It is incredibly common for people to love the smell of a new car and try to preserve it for as long as possible. There are even automotive air fresheners that aim to recreate the scent of a new car. But why do people love that new car smell, and is this feeling universal?

Why People Love It

There is no reason for people to like the smell of a new car from an evolutionary perspective. Scientists still have not figured out a concrete reason why we love this smell so much. Most agree, however, that we do because of the associations we have with it. Over time, humans have been conditioned to like the new car smell because we associate it with getting a new vehicle, which is an exciting occurrence.

The Love of the Smell Is Not Universal

While it is seemingly a universal fact that Americans love the new car smell, that is not true in other places around the world. A study published in late 2018 found that 10% of new Chinese car owners complained about the smell of the car. In fact, certain studies discovered that the odor of a vehicle matters more than its performance or safety so this can be a significant issue in the Chinese market.

Ford Is Working to Eliminate the Smell

This is just a personal preference in China, but some automakers have taken note. Ford, in particular, decided to take that information to heart and try to get rid of the new car smell from its vehicles to appeal to a wider range of drivers. After all, those who want the new car smell can always get it with an air freshener.

Ford patented a process that will remove that new car smell so that they can better appeal to all the drivers. According to Ford team members, the company’s patent for removing the smell took years of research but is just a single idea that the automaker is considering in the future. The patent describes the process of getting rid of the smell to some extent. It includes parking in the sun, opening windows slightly, then maybe turning on the fan, heater, and engines. The system also has special software and other technology.

Causes of the New Car Smell

The new car smell that we are so used to is the result of the production process of making the vehicles. Specifically, it is due to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that the vinyl, plastic, and leather give off. These and other materials in a new vehicle will release VOC molecules into the air. Over time, the molecules evaporate.

Unfortunately, that new car smell that we love can actually be harmful in a confined space and with prolonged exposure. That is because many VOCs are carcinogens and most can cause things like muscle or joint pain, or headaches. So, even though you love the new car smell, you should be careful not to breathe in too much of it.