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Ford Files Patent to Eliminate “New Car Smell”


January 7, 2019

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Ford Motor Co. (“Ford”) has filed a patent application for vehicle odor remediation, i.e. getting rid of that “new car smell” that seems to linger (for better or for worse) after a vehicle has been purchased.


The new car smell is caused by volatile organic compounds given off by leather, plastic and vinyl, as well as chemicals used to attach and seal various car parts. Ford’s patent application proposes removing the smell by parking the car in the sun, opening the windows slightly and turning on the engine, heater and fan to allow the compounds to be released. The process uses special software and air quality sensors, and will only work with an autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle. The vehicle would be able to determine when the conditions are right to start expelling the compounds.


Ford’s actions seem to be motivated by consumer feedback from China, the largest car market in the world. According to the 2018 J.D. Power China Initial Quality Study, more than 10% of Chinese drivers complain about the smell of new vehicles.


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has not yet ruled on Ford’s application, and it remains to be seen whether Ford will actually adopt the technology.

Authors: Larissa Fulop and Sheena Singh



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