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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Newest Frivolity for Cars Drives Point Home About Safety Measures

I just received a news release from a corporate public relations firm in New York which reads as follows:

“SCENTRON is here and Bloomingdales has it! For the first time ever, America’s favorite department store will offer an automobile accessory. But in true Bloomingdales style, it’s not just any accessory.
“SCENTRON is a replacement for your cigarette lighter. It looks like a lighter, it feels like a lighter, it acts like a lighter, in fact, it is a lighter. But it’s also a fragrancer which has been specially designed by Parfums America to freshen up practically anyone’s car. All you do is push it in, and when it pops back out any one f four fragrances (depending on which one is in the cartridge) is emitted into the car. It’s manufactured by the same company that makes lighters that just light for Ford, GM, Chrysler, American Motors and several Japanese companies and comes in two models that Bill fit 80 to 85% of all American cars and that takes in over 100 million cars.

“Retail-wise, Bloomingdales has it exclusively and they’re so enthusiastic about the product that they will package it under their own name and will sell it in multiple locations in each of their 14 stores from the end f September 1985 through the first of January 1986.

“And that’s not the only way you’ll be able to get your own SCENTRON. All you have to do is buy a 1986 Lincoln from one of the Tri-State Lincoln-Mercury dealers from October 3 on and one comes along with the deal, while supplies last. Lincoln Mercury likes SCENTRON so much that they are doing their own promotions. “The unit, which Parfums America expects to go worldwide next year, retails for $12.50 with two fragrance cartridges (Floral Bouquet and Citrus).

Each cartridge is good for about 100 unit dose and to increase the fragrance level, just depress the lighter a second time. Also, use of the SCENTRON as a fragrancer never impedes its use as a lighter. In addition to the above, two other fragrances, Rose and Vanilla, are also available.”

What in the wide world can one say in response? That SCENTRON takes our economy to new heights f trivia and self-indulgence for the rich while the rest of America would just like to buy a car that works. That Lincoln Mercury should be promoting air bags rather than scented air for its motorists.

That SCENTRON will make it less likely that passengers detect exhaust leaks with their noses. That SCENTRON is paradoxical: it attaches itself to cigarette lighters that start cigarette smoke in the car and then squirts vanilla to counteract tobacco smells. That SCENTRON will help to make people more tolerant f regular pollution because they have overwhelmed it with artificial fragrances. That these fragrances themselves may be another form f pollution. That the Japanese automakers must be wryly smiling at this latest American technology designed to interest customers in Lincoln Mercury.

Seriously, though, there has to be something wrong when the auto companies will provide the space for motorists to buy their own radios and cigarette lighters in the aftermarket but these same motorists cannot buy air bags from willing suppliers because the suitable architectural space for their installation in the steering wheel and dash panel does not come with the car. But then only lives are at stake, not scents.

Again and again, one sees the innovation, promotion and business drive attach itself to manufactured “wants” while products meeting grave “needs” are ignored or suppressed. Even as options, front seat air bags should cost less than luxury interior trim, removable roof panels, special bucket seats or power windows. But you still cannot buy them, except for Mercedes which offers the safety system for driver side only. This whole situation doesn’t smell good at all.