Your New Car Smell May Be in Danger

It's one of the great pleasures of buying a new vehicle — the vaunted new car smell. It's utterly synthetic, yet somehow so delightful. The fact that it lingers lets you revel in your big purchase even longer.

The new car smell could be a thing of the past before you know it, though. The Detroit Free Press revealed that at the beginning of November, Ford filed a patent for a method that eliminates the familiar odor in cars. "Vehicle odor remediation" may not catch on in the United States, where new car smell is both a perk and a sign of status. But in China, it's a big turn-off, and car manufacturers don't want to take any chances on a market that large.

The way the patent works is pretty ingenious, ultimately. New car smell comes from volatile compounds that naturally emit from car components like leather, plastic, and vinyl. Additional products like sealants and cleaners contribute to the fragrant bouquet. Ford's patent involves a "baking" process, mimicking and speeding up the time your new car hangs out in the sun, ultimately shedding its signature scent.

Even this patent doesn't mean this is a done deal. Ford representatives emphasized to the Detroit Free Press that it simply represented the culmination of years of work, and was just one idea in the toolbox. But 1 in 10 Chinese consumers said new car smell was a big problem; it outranks poor fuel economy and wind noise in some surveys. It's not impossible that new car smell itself will turn into nostalgia down the road.