It's a more complicated task than you think.
Imagine going to work every day at a major international automaker where your sole task is to utilize your strong sense of smell and chemistry skills. Nissan has that person and his name is Peter Karl Eastland. His job title? Odor Evaluation Lead Engineer. Yes, seriously.
This may sound like a rather boring and mundane job but we can assure you it's not. Nissan takes this very seriously, making sure the right person has the job. Eastland not only has a naturally acute sense of smell, but also a master's degree in Chemistry with Forensic Science. The Japanese automaker wants customers to fully enjoy their new Ariya, for example, and having the right "new car smell" is vital.
Eastland and his team spend months and sometimes years analyzing a variety of things, such as seat fabric, adhesives, and polymers. Their work must not only result in the right new car fragrance, but they also need to avoid any unpleasant odors. "We aim to provide the best sensory experience for the customer. While tastes and preferences evolve over time, the odor of the vehicle will also change with the addition of new materials," he said.
A long list of materials is constantly being tested in a variety of conditions to best replicate real-world situations. This is actually a long-term project because the chemical properties of materials change over time due to things like temperature.
Naturally, this results in a change of scent. Getting the odor formula right the first time is a must. Nissan's so-called "odor department" is an international project, with offices in Japan and Michigan in addition to the UK where Eastland is based. Another core element Eastland points out is that new vehicles are becoming quieter than ever, so occupants' senses are going to be diverted elsewhere, specifically 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," Eastland summarized.