Browse Publications Technical Papers 2001-01-0047

The Smell of Success - Exploiting the Leather Aroma 2001-01-0047

The sense of smell has profound importance for humans. The scent of pine reminds us of Christmas; the smell of turkey brings back memories of Thanksgivings past. There is a scientific reason that happens. Our olfactory and limbic systems collect, transmit and decode aromas into emotions and even into behavior. We can't see or physically feel this facet of consumer satisfaction. But it has a strong influence. Consumers care as much about their new car's smell as its horsepower.
Automakers have indirectly changed the new car smell through the evolution of materials used in automotive interiors. They have also directly changed it through attempts to amplify the leather smell and, in some recent cases, to actually engineer a total interior smell. The direct techniques have had varying degrees of success, measured as consumer ratings of “that new car smell” in annual J.D. Power and Associates Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) studies.
Leather is the only interior material that carries the burden of satisfying a consumer's expectation for a specific smell. Yet, when leather is the only interior aroma that is controlled, the results can be undesirable. Other interior smells can mix poorly with the aroma chosen for the leather, to offset or minimize the intended effect.
Evaluation of annual new car smell ratings and proprietary consumer research have led two suppliers to propose a new approach in exploiting leather's unique olfactory powers.


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