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Volvo Cars' nose team - the human nose has no competition
GÖTEBORG (December 18, 2007) -- Volvo Car Corporation has yet to find a technical device which can replace the human nose or, in particular, determine if something smells good or bad. It's why the company engages a smell test panel.
Also known as the nose team, the panel consists of eight specially selected people with a "normal" sense of smell that guide the designers in their choice of materials and production methods, paying particular attention to the interior of the vehicle in development. Their job: Ensure a new Volvo will smell like a Volvo!
"Different people have different perceptions of smells," says Patrik Libander, a test engineer with Volvo Cars and responsible for the smell test panel. "These are due to differences between generations and cultures, and to the different associations made by different people depending on their own experience. However, this is one of the things that makes my job exciting."
The interior of a modern vehicle contains many different materials that contain chemical substances. While most of these substances remain locked in the material, small quantities can evaporate, creating that "new car smell". The panel monitors these substances and the smells they may cause in the cabin.
The panel consists of two teams of four people who undergo a careful selection process to ensure that they don't demonstrate an acute -- or above average -- sense of smell and do not differ appreciably from each other.
"People who like an odour that others in the panel think are unpleasant are excluded, likewise, those who either cannot detect or are hypersensitive to smells. All must be non-smokers, since smoking can affect the sense of smell," explains Libander.
He adds that the panel evaluates the smell from the interior trim items on a scale from one to six, where one indicates "Not noticeable" and six is "Unbearable". To secure approval, the test item must not exceed a three, which is "Clearly noticeable, but not yet unpleasant".
The interior designers also use a sunshine simulator at the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden in Borås, Sweden. A vehicle equipped with a new interior trim material can be tested by placing it in the simulator for a couple of hours until the cabin temperature has reached 65ºC. Analysis equipment is then used to measure the levels of Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC) and aldehydes in the interior. Finally, members of the smell test panel sit in the car and evaluate the smell on the fixed scale.
"We impose strict demands both on ourselves and our suppliers," concludes Libander. "Travelling in a car should be a pleasant experience for the nose as well."
Volvo Cars of Canada Corp. is part of the Volvo Car Corporation of Göteborg, Sweden. The company provides marketing, sales, parts, service, technology and training support to the 42 Volvo automobile retailers across the country. The company's product range includes the stylish and sporty C30, the elegant C70 hardtop convertible, the compact S40 sedan, the S60 sport sedan, the S80 flagship sedan, the versatile V50 wagon and the award-winning XC90 sport utility vehicle. For the 2008 model year, the company is introducing two all-new models: the redesigned V70 wagon and the capable and comfortable XC70.
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Marshall Fenn Communications
Office: 416-962-3366 x267
Marshall Fenn Communications
Office: 416-962-3366 x254