When a new car arrives, there is a certain pleasant smell which stays on for a couple of weeks. However, weeks later, this smell fades away and odour sets in. While western countries don't mind that, China, the world's largest automotive market, a car smelling like brand new is the foremost priority for car buyers there. Ford Motor Co, China is addressing this issue and sniffing its way out of the declining sales of seven percent this year compared to 2016. There are 18 smell experts who have been appointed in China by the American car maker to understand how to diminish bad odours and keep them from coming into a car. Known as 'golden noses' the seats and other materials go through a strict routine where these smell testers go through a rigorous process which also includes blind smell tests before getting selected for the sniff job. In addition, these golden noses can't indulge in habits like smoking or drinking or even spicy food. That's not all, they aren't allowed to wear nail polish, a strong perfume or even a leather jacket so that their sense of smell can stay sharp. A study by J.D Power also stated that car buyers in China have unpleasant smells as the top priority during a vehicle purchase even before engine issues, road noise or mileage.
Car companies such as Ford also go the extra mile to understand what a consumer in China would want. While in countries like the US, seats are covered in plastic, in China, they are covered in a perforated cloth when a car is sold. “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 jeopardise their health,” said Don Yu, General Manager, CGT that manufactures materials that cover car seats and dashboards in China for Volkswagen, General Motors and Ford. The rising pollution level in China is a major concern for people there and any bad odour inside a car is unacceptable.
Companies like Geely and BYD sell their cars based on the fact that their in-car filters protect the occupants against air pollution. The future is undoubtedly towards greener modes of transport, however for the time being, Ford's new strategy for China may just put them ahead of its competitors, if not by a mile, then at least by a nose.