Smell the roses – or green tea – with Continental
Continental isn’t only in the business of making tyres and automotive systems – it also wants your new car to smell nice. The company is striving to improve mobile olfactory ambience with its Acella interior material.
You may ask why. For many, the scent encountered when climbing into a new car rates low on their list of objectionable stenches. But this isn’t the case in China. According to the 2018 J.D. Power China Initial Quality Study, the fresh-from-the-factory-odour is something numerous car buyers in China are not pleased with. More than ten per cent of drivers complained about the odour of their brand-new cars. In fact, smell matters even more to Chinese motorists than excessive fuel consumption.
This issue did not go unnoticed by vehicle manufacturers, and they approached Continental about it. “When our customers told us about the complaints from the car buyers, we practically had the solution at hand. Following trends on the market we had done our research already and were able to come up with our Acella interior surface material with scent pretty soon,” says Cai Dongdan from Continental, who is part of the six-person development team behind Acella’s aroma. “Vehicle interiors have effects on peoples’ senses – the sensation of all the shapes, materials and surfaces makes people want to buy a certain car or not. This also applies to the smell of it.”
The surface experts at Continental – based in Zhangjiagang, China, where the company has recently expanded its research and development facilities – designed a method to integrate fragrance into a layer of the standard Acella interior surface material. As the development of a completely new material would have been costly and time-consuming, they upgraded an existing material using this method and suggested several flavours in this process to meet customer requirements in the best possible way. “It was a light, fruity and fresh scent which was favored by the manufacturer and their customers. It took us just one year from the initial enquiry to series production.” The team was able to develop two further flavors, green tea and men’s perfume within just six more months. “These new pleasant scents create a feel-good ambience for car buyers. And our customers are very pleased that we were able to solve the smell issue within such a short period of time,” continues Cai.
What’s more, Continental offers the scents in different degrees of intensity. Just as the new car smell disappears after a while, the scent of green tea or whatever also evaporates. “It is not intended to remain in the car for the rest of the vehicle’s life. Depending on the chosen intensity it is still slightly perceivable after six to eight months before it completely fades away,” Cai explains. He adds that Acella is free from stabilisers containing heavy metals and has passed all relevant VOC (volatile organic compound) tests.