In China it’s a bat­tle be­tween new smell and no smell

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

WHILE West­ern driv­ers like the “new car” smell fresh off the pro­duc­tion line, Chi­nese would rather their cars didn’t smell of any­thing – a cul­tural di­vide that’s test­ing car mak­ers seek­ing an edge to re­vive sales in the world’s big­gest car mar­ket.

At Ford, for ex­am­ple, 18 smell as­ses­sors – dubbed “golden noses” – at its re­search plant out­side the eastern city of Nan­jing test the smell of each ma­te­rial that goes in­side a Ford car to be sold in China and around Asia.

The China smell test il­lus­trates the lengths car mak­ers go to to at­tract buy­ers in mar­kets where con­sumer at­ti­tudes vary widely. “In North Amer­ica, people want a new car smell and will even buy a ‘new car’ spray to make older cars feel new and fresh. In China it’s the op­po­site,” says Andy Pan, su­per­vi­sor for ma­te­rial en­gi­neer­ing at the Ford fa­cil­ity.

The smell of a new car in China can have an out­sized ef­fect. A JD Power re­port last year showed that un­pleas­ant car smells were the top con­cern for Chi­nese driv­ers, ahead of en­gine is­sues, road noise or fuel con­sump­tion.

The smell as­ses­sors at Ford, whose China sales are down 7 per­cent this year, carry out 300 tests a year, a third more than their coun­ter­parts in Europe.

They rate the odour of all ma­te­ri­als used in a car from “not per­cep­ti­ble” to “ex­tremely dis­turb­ing”. – Reuters

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