Car manufacturer Nissan employs a member of staff who has ‘enhanced senses’ - to ensure its products have the all-important ‘new car smell’.
Peter Karl Eastland has a master’s degree in chemistry and forensic science - but he also possesses an extremely acute sense of smell, a gift he realised he had from an early age, which allows him to identify more than 15 smell categories.
Nissan recognised he has the ‘nose for the job’ and appointed him as the ‘odour evaluation lead engineer’ at its European Technical Centre in Cranfield.
His job is to ensure the life-on-board experience in its new Qashqai model isn’t compromised by any unappealing odours.
Peter, dubbed the ‘Nose of Nissan’, said: “I remember as a young kid playing games where we had to identify different food stuffs, like flavours of crisps, sweets or drinks by their smell alone.
“I was able to correctly identify the difference between the own-brand supermarket items and the leading brands’ products, even when the flavour was meant to be the same.
“At Nissan, I work with a lot of different materials, for example polymers, rubbers and adhesives.
“Having a trained nose means that I can tell the difference between fake and real leather, or cloth and fabric etc.
“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 odour and that all of the senses are harmonised.”
Liaising with the Nissan engineering and manufacturing teams, Peter and his team test all the materials, such as the soft material used for the new 3D diamond quilted seats in a variety of conditions to replicate real-world environments.
They have to consider that the chemical properties of these materials, such as odour, can change according to temperature.
Where a potential new material or chemical is found to negatively affect the overall cabin ambience, Peter and his colleagues will identify alternatives to ensure the ‘sanctity’ of the new-car smell.
The evaluation process blends objective and subjective assessment, culminating in a rigorous process that leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of that perfect new-car smell.
David Moss, senior vice president, region research & development, added: “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 analyse the use of materials and chemicals, such as seat fabric, adhesives, and polymers, to ensure that they don’t combine to generate an unpleasant odour for the car’s occupants.
“It reflects the lengths Nissan goes to in order to make the ownership experience of any new Nissan exactly what our customers hope and expect – even in this very specialised area.”