Meet the nose of Nissan North America

Meet the nose of Nissan North America

Every detail ā€“ even the smell ā€“ of a new Nissan is carefully crafted

Drivers in the U.S. expect to be delighted by the "new car" smell when they buy a set of wheels. That's why Nissan engineers have a process in place to ensure that leathery, freshly cleaned scent is up to snuff.

"It's important to U.S. customers," said Tori Keerl, a materials engineer at Nissan Technical Center North America who oversees fabric and plastic odors in new products. "Smell is related to memory and that new car smell takes them back to that memory of buying their first car and it makes them excited for the possibilities of what this new car will bring."

As a materials engineer, Keerl and her colleagues research and authorize which materials are used in Nissan vehicles. During a new vehicle launch, Keerl is also responsible for odor testing. With several fresh Nissan vehicles hitting dealer lots – including the all-new 2022 Nissan Rogue and Pathfinder – one could say she's been up to her nose in odor testing work.

"The new car smell does improve the driver's experience," she says. "When you get into your car and smell that new car smell, it improves your mood and kind of gives you a confidence boost like you would feel putting on perfume in the morning."

Keerl is not concocting a fragrance in the lab. Instead, she evaluates whether the parts and materials being used in the vehicle are creating the perfect cabin aroma. To do this, she oversees a panel of material engineers who are certified to smell specific odors.

Nissan engineer Tori Keerl working inside a Rogue with a colleague

The panelists analyze how different vehicle parts smell in the cabin of the vehicle while parked inside an environmental chamber that stimulates different climate conditions. The panelists rank the odors on a scale system, and each category must meet Nissan requirements. The team also performs volatile organic compound (VOC) testing to ensure the air quality inside the cabin meets federal regulations.

"Vehicles must also undergo comprehensive VOC testing during a new launch," Keerl says. "We collect concrete VOC data by taking air samples in different conditions. Sometimes that results in a full investigation to find out what may be causing elevated levels."

Material engineers work closely with suppliers and may recommend utilizing a new material if a vehicle part is creating too strong an odor or impacts VOC levels.

"Describing odor testing to people outside of the industry is fun," says Keerl. "Generally, I just tell them that I'm a certified smeller and that seems to get a lot of laughs. Some people think that it can't be a real job. But it is a real part of my job and it's necessary so we can provide a quality vehicle that pleases your nose."

Keerl says smell preferences are subjective and vary by region. While U.S. drivers appreciate the "new car" smell, motorists in Asia or Europe may not.

"I think the ideal new car smell changes with every person and will continue to change over time," she said.