China's Preferred New Car Smell Is Nothing

Illustration for article titled China's Preferred New Car Smell Is Nothing

You know how much you love that heady brew of probably spine-eroding chemicals that makes up new car smell? Sure you do — I've seen you sneaking into dealerships and cramming your face in a glovebox for one good huff. Well, Lincoln found that in China, the new car smell they prefer is... nothing. A stench void. Olfactory nothingness.


Just let that sink in. No new car smell at all. You open the door of your brand new, Chinese-market Lincoln MKC, and are greeted with a blast of... air. Just normal, flavorless, boring air. Well, I maybe if you're in downtown Shanghai, it's sort of sooty and dense, but you get the idea.

I believe most cultural differences can be bridged with mutual understanding and respect, but I'm not so sure about this one.

For Chinese market cars, Lincoln even puts a charcoal canister into the cars prior to shipping to remove every trace of new-car scent. Lincoln is actually missing out on a huge revenue opportunity for the American market by not shipping the canisters back to the US and selling them as concentrated New Car Scent on-the-go huffables.

In Japan, I was told that the average luxury car buyer actually likes the leather to have a slightly fishy smell, which does not play well in America at all. In fact, there's very little more idiosyncratic than a particular culture's scent-preferences for their new cars.

Here's a partial list of some country's preferred luxury new-car smells, based on a 2012 study conducted by the Journal Of Olfactory Psychology, from the University of St.Imadethisupicus in Fabrication, NJ:

Austrians: Beef jerky with an undersmell of hospital porcelain

South Africa: Butter and fresh Band-aids

Canada: Maple syrup and the pheromones released when someone hands you an umbrella you almost forgot


Tibet: Old Teen Spirit magazine samples

Italy: A fresh tomato sitting inside a man's shoe

Germany: A sphere of aluminum, resting in a tray of mineral oil

France: Your sister's friend, right when she gets up in the morning

Russia: The smell of a steak being beaten against a brick wall

India: Anis and cricket bat wood

McMurdo Research Station, Antarctica: A fresh peach, for fuck's sake. A grape. A handful of fresh-cut grass. Please, please, I want to come home.



Almost better than new car smell, in my opinion, is the scent of certain old cars. My 1974 Karmann Ghia is one I come back to often. That mixture of unburned gas, cooked vinyl, hot metal and motor oil, German upholstery stuffing, uncatalyzed exhaust fumes, and just general age is something I wish I could distill into a cologne or an aerosol spray.

My Miata is starting to smell kinda like Ghia now. It's about time, considering it's older now than the Ghia was the last time I saw it.