Whitney Russell
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Chinese Dislike of New Car Smell Fuels Research for Odorless Car Interiors

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The intoxicating smell of new car might, in fact, be toxic
Photo: gizmodo

Foreign markets like China are important for car manufacturers to win over, primarily because contemporary Americans are keeping their cars longer. According to Fortune, the average vehicle year on the road today is 2005. Modern vehicles simply have an extended shelf life these days, due to their advanced design, technology, and overall durability of their materials.

Health concerns are behind this cultural dislike of the new car smell. As Don Yu, general manager at CGT, a company that supplies interior car materials to major manufacturers like GM, articulates: “When I lived in the United States I might look at the suspension or the engine. In China, though, people open the car and sit inside, if the smell isn’t good enough they think it will jeopardize their health.”

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One of the drivers eager for new fragrance-free car interior technology
Photo: Rick Nobles, Chronicle

It turns out that new car smell comes from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted from a car’s rubber, leather, and upholstery. VOCs are found in products like paint, glue, and nail polish remover. According to U.S. News, the latest research suggests that prolonged exposure to VOCs might help contribute to learning disabilities and birth effects, as well as cancer.

The German chemical company BASF is one company leading the research for less toxic car interiors. BASF has designed a new type of Polyurethane with a low VOC content that minimizes the new car smell. The material can be tweaked to meet each manufacturer’s brand-specific specifications for interior air quality. The company’s goal is for this invention to help usher in a new norm of odorless interiors for future cars.

That’s exciting news for the health conscious. If you’re a staunch fan of new car smell, however, you might want to stock up on those Little Trees hanging air fresheners to prepare for the new wave scentless car interiors.

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Sources: Inverse, BASF, Fortune, Reuters, U.S. News

Whitney Russell is a current resident of Dayton, though her spirit can be found beach-bumming on Puerto Rico (the land of her half-Puerto Rican heritage). When not adventuring through the exciting world of car news, she can be found hiking with her fiance and their 1-year-old Labrador, motorcycling, reorganizing and/or decorating some corner of the world (most likely in yellow), researching random things, scribbling on her blog, and escaping into a great movie, poem, or short story. See more articles by Whitney.