In branding, you have these things called "touchpoints", mainly little experiential details believed to help part you from your money; textures, colors, sounds, light, temperature, and even smell. Why is smell particularly so important? Because that touchpoint is worth billions to auto manufacturers.

Everyone knows the drill ... that "new car smell" is invigoratingly heavenly, yet you know to be cautious because inhaling too much of it can lead to a ​cancer-laden dirt nap. The Benzene and Cyclohex' Special is a deliciously intoxicating experience and all, but all manufacturers expertly craft that experience differently. Yes, like beer.

And naturally, the results are decidedly mixed between heavenly aroma of slaughtered/skinned animals and something that reminds you of accidentally walking past an Abercrombie & Fitch store at the mall. Some are unforgettable, and there are others that you go out of your way to avoid.

Sure – leather interiors will naturally smell much more enticing than trim levels that use a lowly weave of fabric, but there are some leathers that leave you with much to be desired (the smell of Ford leather interiors come to mind, smells vinyl-y) while some fabric interiors can't help but make you feel pleasant and cheery (VW for me, eyes closed). That's the power of smell ... it's a sensory experience that stays with you.

The Kandied Koreans


Who makes some fabric interiors that make me go "BLEGH" when I open my nostrils? Kia Motors. There's nothing outwardly off-putting about them when you climb in, but you notice after a while that the car smells *sweet*. Like, candy sweet, as if someone was chewing a couple hundred packs of Juicy Fruit to spit out and use as the adhesives, or spilled sweet tea in the carpets on the assembly line. And it's not an isolated incident for me either ... every Kia rental I've ever had smells like this, including my sister's Soul daily driver. I just can't take that after a while, which is why on a 10-point scale I would continuously rate them a 3 or 4. Boo, said the crowd.

Domestic Disturbance


On the flip side, both FoMoCo and GM use a particular fabric in their standard-trim cars that smells a-m-a-z-i-n-g when new. It penetrates everything, including the clothes you're wearing. Interestingly that smell changes after a few years of use, but only with most Ford products I've driven ... it lingers, but is noticeably stale. GM, by comparison, just tapers off into the sunset without a trace. Which is why I would give GM's fabric interiors a solid 8 while Ford will sag from a 7 to a 5 over time.

All experiences will be different, but it's an important thing to document. How would you rate your favorite and most despised experiences with the smell of a car interior?