Why A Brand New Interior Is The Processed Meat Of Car Smells

We love it but it’s not actually all that good for us: is Ford’s China-led initiative to get rid of new-car-smell actually something we should embrace?
Why A Brand New Interior Is The Processed Meat Of Car Smells

Ahh, that first, deep, wonderful sniff when you step into a new car. It’s like stepping into an award-winning breakfast cafe and breathing-in that first hit of bacon. Maybe you’ve bought the shiny new motor or perhaps it’s just centre stage in a showroom, but the reward is the same. God damn it, we love the smell of a new car.

It’s not always the same smell. A factory-fresh BMW doesn’t smell quite the same as an equivalent Ford, or Honda. The concepts and realities of new-car-smell are as diverse and complex as the world of cars itself. Experts in the field (and there probably are some) would tell you exactly what creates such breadth of character; we just know we love it.

Why A Brand New Interior Is The Processed Meat Of Car Smells

That’s why it seems so blusteringly unfathomable to we westerners that the Chinese people could be so dead against it. They hate it. They despise it to the point where they’d rather not buy the car at all if the smell is what they’d call too pungent or repulsive. Ford has taken this incredibly seriously and decided to ‘burn off’ the smell before cars are delivered to Chinese dealers, using a simplistic process of parking the car in direct sunlight, running the engine, turning the heater up and opening the windows slightly.

Bizarre, we said. How can you not like new-car-smell, we said.

Why A Brand New Interior Is The Processed Meat Of Car Smells

They might actually be onto something, however. New-car-smell isn’t actually very good for us. Those sweet, sweet perfumes come from chemicals in various parts of the car, from the dashboard plastics to glues, the upholstery and even the soundproofing material. They’re grouped under the umbrella of ‘volatile organic compounds,’ and they’re not especially healthy to humans.

After they’re pummelled into the shapes of various car parts, these compounds are essentially left to burn themselves out; a process that’s delightfully named off-gassing, or out-gassing. Among these gases are tiny particles of flame-retardants, lead and even the notoriously poisonous mercury, none of which are especially helpful to homo sapiens’ biology when inhaled.

Why A Brand New Interior Is The Processed Meat Of Car Smells

Because the variables are so numerous a definitive study can’t easily be carried out, but research has so far uncovered more than 275 different chemicals in vehicle interiors. Not all are harmful, but some definitely are.

Heat from the car’s normal operation permeates the cabin materials and accelerates the release of these chemicals while you’re driving. You have no choice but to breathe them, and at the end of the day we just don’t know what ill effects they’re having. New-car-smell is just like bacon after all: absolutely delicious, but for the sake of your health it’s maybe not something you’d want all the time.



I think breathing is these chemicals is probably less harmful than just leaving a fleet of cars running with the heater on max for a long period of time.

11/25/2018 - 15:41 |
138 | 0

Hahaha, I’ll take a shot in the dark and say you’re right

11/25/2018 - 16:19 |
22 | 0

Using the Auto Start-Stop is the only way I’d think, but even then it’s still probably worse off.

11/25/2018 - 19:01 |
0 | 0
RWB Dude

I love the smell of new car and i would be disappointed if all manufacturers took it away

11/25/2018 - 15:51 |
16 | 2

Don’t worry. They will just add it as an option you can buy… for a measly 500 bucks.

11/25/2018 - 19:02 |
18 | 0

Just about at the point where the smell has begun fading in the new car now….. looks like it’s time to start car shopping again

11/26/2018 - 03:20 |
0 | 0

I largely think I prefer older cars, though.

I spent the weekend driving a 2004 Toyota Matrix XRS which has the 2003 ECU, and man… Modern cars feel soulless in comparison to this old naturally aspirated 6 speed with limited slip differential and a redline over 8000.

If by some tragedy, I have to bypass the new car smell to obtain 8200 RPM redline and an actual, physical limited slip differential that spins both front tires without dragging the brake on the inside corner during a turn, so be it. That was the best fun I have had in a long time, actually, sending this high-revving hot hatch up mountain roads (300 km north) at a good clip.

New car smell is such a small part of vehicle ownership that it’s largely irrelevant and buying a new car for access to these VOCs isn’t great, and the viewpoint of the Chinese is valid, that maybe it’s time to rethink VOCs in our cars.

Besides, everyone knows the best smells for cars is gasoline, and Black Ice scented trees

11/26/2018 - 05:27 |
8 | 0

The solution ? Buy only used cars instead !

11/25/2018 - 17:09 |
12 | 2
Marco Q (hi)

yes but have you ever smelled an old Mercedes? its like uhhh but better

11/25/2018 - 17:21 |
2 | 0
RonTheCarGuy (CT Jedi Order)


11/25/2018 - 17:26 |
0 | 0

Ah yes, the Chinese, world leaders in breathing healthy air.

11/25/2018 - 17:57 |
86 | 2

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hahaha exactly what I was thinking

11/25/2018 - 19:23 |
50 | 0
Ray Sloan

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

junkies in china shoot Canadian air into their arms

11/26/2018 - 04:27 |
8 | 0

I’m that weirdo who is excited about refuelling because of the smell
So telling me that new car smell is harmful is not gonna stop me enjoying it

11/25/2018 - 19:15 |
20 | 0

You’re not a weirdo I love the smell of gasoline too dude.

11/25/2018 - 19:24 |
8 | 0

You’re not alone

11/26/2018 - 09:51 |
0 | 0

It causes cancer in California

11/25/2018 - 19:48 |
6 | 0

Older new car smell was shit, haven’t actually smelled a new car now tho

11/25/2018 - 20:47 |
0 | 6

As long as its just the Chinese, we’ll be fine

11/26/2018 - 00:17 |
6 | 2


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