Ford’s odor testers make sure their cars don’t stink (VIDEO).

The “Approved Odor Assessors” Who Sniff Every Car Part to Achieve the Perfect Smell (Video)

The “Approved Odor Assessors” Who Sniff Every Car Part to Achieve the Perfect Smell (Video)

Slate in motion.
Jan. 27 2016 7:59 AM

How “Approved Odor Assessors” Guard Your New Car’s Smell  

At Ford, more than 100 parts make up a vehicle’s unique bouquet.

The Nose Knows
Olfactory factory.


In the video above, Ford offers an entertaining and informative glimpse at how its engineers guarantee their cars don’t stink. Literally. Many people cherish that “new-car smell” without realizing it’s actually a complex bouquet of more than 100 different materials in a new car—even one off note, or part, could kill the scent.

Linda Schmalz, a supervisor of body interior materials engineering at Ford, helps manage the company’s “approved odor assessors,” who evaluate how heat and wear affect the odor of a car's parts. She told Slate everything should simply smell like what it is. “Leather,” Schmalz offered as an example, “shouldn’t smell like rotten meat, or a dirty gym bag, or a wet dog.”


The assessors’ job isn’t to find great smells, but to make sure bad smells stay out. A team prepares a new car’s materials to simulate real-life conditions, and then the parts are subjected to a sniff test. If assessors rate a part as having a “disturbing” odor, it’s eliminated, replaced, or its formula is modified to fix the problem.

What qualifies someone as an “approved odor assessor”? Schmalz said they look for people from other Ford labs with a “normal” sense of smell, not souls graced with super-sensitive schnozzes. “They can’t have allergies; they can’t be smokers,” she said. “They also can’t wear perfumes, colognes, or anything that would interfere with the odor rating.”

And what’s the best-smelling car at Ford? According to Schmalz, that’s probably the Lincoln series, “because they have those very nice leather and wood products.” Naturally.