How ‘new car smell’ is created at Nissan

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Part of the rigorous design, development and testing process for Nissan’s new Qashqai involved formulating a ‘new car smell’.

The unique role of creating this scent, which is said to be extremely important in the development of Nissan’s European vehicles, belongs to Peter Karl Eastland, odor evaluation lead engineer, who is based at Nissan Technical Centre Europe.

During the creation of the Qashqai, particular attention was paid to the onboard ambience – from the fit and finish, to the materials including new premium leather, to the user-friendliness of the technology inside the cabin. Attention to detail is crucial to ensure that unappealing odors do not compromise the interior experience for occupants.

“We aim to provide the best sensory experience for the customer. While tastes and preferences evolve over time, smell remains a constant. Therefore, it is part of our job to make sure that any material we use is always going to be perfect in terms of scent and that all of the senses are harmonized,” commented Eastland.

David Moss, senior vice president, research and development, Europe, Nissan, noted, “That new car smell isn’t just a consequence of the manufacturing process; months of work are devoted throughout the development phase of the new vehicle to carefully analyze the use of materials and chemicals, such as seat fabric, adhesives and polymers, to ensure that they don’t combine to generate an unpleasant odor for the car’s occupants.”

As well as having a master’s degree in chemistry with forensic science from Leicester University, UK, Eastland is blessed with an extremely acute sense of smell, a gift he realized he had at an early age, the auto maker says. Having joined the Nissan Graduate Trainee Scheme in 2016, with an already keen interest in automotive, his exceptional olfactory talents meant that he was a natural candidate to assume the role of odor evaluation lead engineer when his predecessor changed responsibilities.

Along with his co-workers based at Nissan’s other technical centers in Atsugi, Japan, and Farmington Hills, USA, Eastland is responsible for ensuring the smell inside the cabin receives a positive response from end users.

The evaluation process blends objective and subjective assessment. Liaising with the Nissan engineering and manufacturing teams, Eastland and his team test all the materials, such as the soft material used for the new 3D diamond quilted seats on the Qashqai, in a variety of conditions that replicate real-world environments. While doing this, it must be taken into account that the chemical properties – such as odor – can change with temperature, for example. Where a potential new material or chemical is found to negatively affect the overall cabin ambience, Eastland and his colleagues will identify alternatives to ensure the sanctity of the new-car smell.

“A key part of my role in assessing a material is to keep the customer at the center of our focus. With any change or new design, potential odors will need to be part of the wider evaluation on the effectiveness of that change,” added Eastland.

“For me, the job satisfaction comes from working with extremely smart people, who are specialists in their own areas. I would describe it as an osmosis of knowledge. I enjoy picking up key knowledge from all the engineers and technicians who work here as we collaborate on the finest of details. We make sure the forthcoming new Nissan generates that feeling of pride, satisfaction and pleasure each time our customers drive their vehicle.”

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Rachel's career in journalism has seen her write for various titles at UKi Media & Events within automotive, tire and marine. Her favourite aspect of the job is interviewing industry experts, including researchers, scientists, engineers and technicians, and learning more about the groundbreaking technologies and innovations that are shaping the future of transportation.

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