Nissan Qashqai and the ‘new-car smell’

Added: 13 September 2021

As part of the rigorous design, development and testing process of the all-new Nissan Qashqai, one of the criteria to be satisfied is that of the interior scent.

The so-called “new car smell” is a key characteristic of any newly purchased vehicle and Nissan’s engineers work hard to ensure that it is just right, recognising that it’s an important ingredient in the pride of new car ownership for buyers.

Peter Karl Eastland is Odour Evaluation Lead Engineer, based at Nissan Technical Centre Europe. His unassuming job title doesn’t reflect what a unique and perhaps surprising role he plays in the development of Nissan’s European range of vehicles.

The most recent example of his work can be found on the all-new Nissan Qashqai, which went on sale in Europe in July. Particular attention has been paid to elevate the all-new Qashqai’s on-board ambience, from the fit and finish, materials including new premium leather, to the user-friendly technology. But the attention to detail in fine-tuning every aspect is reflected in the important role of ensuring the life-on-board experience isn’t compromised by any unappealing odours.

As well as having a master’s degree in Chemistry with Forensic Science from Leicester University, UK, Peter is blessed with an extremely acute sense of smell, a gift he realised he had at an early age.

Along with a panel of other engineers and technicians, Peter is responsible for ensuring the smell delivers a positive response among Nissan’s new car customers.

“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 scent and that all of the senses are harmonised,” said Peter Karl Eastland, Odour Evaluation Lead Engineer at Nissan Technical Centre Europe.

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”.

“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,” said David Moss, Senior Vice President, Region Research & Development.

“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,” David added.

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 3-D diamond quilted seats on the all-new Qashqai, in a variety of conditions to replicate real-world environments, keeping in mind that their chemical properties – such as odour – can change according to temperature, for example. 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.

“A key part of my role in assessing a material is to keep the customer at the centre of our focus. With any change or new design, potential odours will need to be part of the wider evaluation on the effectiveness of that change,” added Peter.

And Peter is not the only smell expert at Nissan – he has counterparts with whom he liaises at Nissan’s other technical centres in Atsugi, Japan and Farmington Hills, United States. The existence of a global Nissan standard for scent evaluation underlines the attention to detail Nissan commits in ensuring its global product range meet the highest quality standards.

Having joined the Nissan Graduate Trainee Scheme in 2016, with an already keen interest in the automotive world, his exceptional olfactory talents meant that he was a natural candidate to assume the role of Odour Evaluation Lead Engineer, when his predecessor changed responsibilities.

“For me, the job satisfaction comes from working with extremely smart people, who are specialists in their own areas. I would describe it as an osmosis of knowledge. I enjoy picking up key knowledge from all the engineers and technicians who work here as we collaborate on the finest of details. We make sure the forthcoming new Nissan generates that feeling of pride, satisfaction and pleasure each time our customers drive their vehicle,” he explained.

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