By on March 25, 2013

Chinese state TV claims that the air in German cars is dangerous to people’s health. In a report, the station said that insulating materials used in cars made by Audi, BMW and Daimler create noxious odors, Der Spiegel reports.

Not true, say Audi, BMW and Daimler, and that their plastics meet international standards.

Commenters of the Spiegel story were quick to blame user error: “Instead  of filtered recirculation, the complaining Chinese probably switched to external air. In China, this can quickly lead to a very bad smell inside of the car.”

Carmakers don’t think it’s funny and do not take these accusations lightly. Two week ago, the station said Volkswagen had used faulty transmissions. Volkswagen recalled 400,000 cars only days later.

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31 Comments on “China Complains About Bad Air – In German Cars...”

  • avatar

    And in an unrelated development, the Chinese government exhorted its bureaucrats to stop driving all those damned black Audis and start buying Chinese already.

  • avatar

    The pictured couple appear to be slyly stoned on German air.

  • avatar

    This is ridiculous.

    I’ve travelled and I must say China has the WORST AIR I’VE EVER BEEN IN.

    #1 When I get off the plane in Shanghai, the immediate smell of sulfur, coal ash and other “burning” elements smacks me in the gotdamn face. After being in the plane for 16 hours and breathing fresh air, it’s ridiculously painful to my sinuses.

    #2 Each time I go to China, I get sick immediately and stay sick for a week or so. Sore throats make me heat their bottled tea ad attempt to sleep through the night.

    #3 The amount of pollution in the air is astounding. I rented a car last time and washed it (by hand). In just A FEW HOURS there was a layer of dust on it as if it had been driven for a week.

    By comparison, the air of Tokyo Japan was remarkably cleaner. I enjoy being able to drink directly from the faucet. After being in China a while you forget the beauty of tap water cause the Chinese water is so polluted it will seriously mess your intestines up.

    • 0 avatar

      Your washed car example is interesting.
      For comparison, in the late 60’s when our local steel mill was running full 3-shift capacity, I’d earn a buck or two washing my dad’s company truck every Friday evening. I then parked it on a slab alongside the driveway because the garage was for family vehicles.

      By Sunday morning you could see little red piles of FeO2 dust on the bottoms of the white wheel rims, but nothing really noticeable on the roof or hood as they were the red company color.

      So, at the peak of pre-scrubber steel mill pollution from one of our largest mills, it took two days for particulates to become noticeable.
      And Chinese crud shows up in a few hours?

      • 0 avatar

        FeO2 dust is heavy so it doesn’t stay in the air very long. The problem is the air circulation. due to the number of tall buildings in close proximity and the concrete-jungle, tree-less streets, there is very little chance for soil creation or plants to filter the air. Take a look at China’s ponds and lakes near the cities. They are either Jade GREEN or obviously Rust Brown.

        • 0 avatar

          “FeO2 dust is heavy so it doesn’t stay in the air very long.”

          Yes, and since it *still* took a couple of days for us to notice it, I guess we didn’t have it so bad in Steel City (every town with a mill called itself Steel City, not just Pittsburgh :-)

    • 0 avatar

      Try Istanbul in the winter. They burn soft brown coal to heat just about everything. Unless the wind is blowing it away, the air is literally yellow, and visibility can sometines be measure in single digits of metres.

    • 0 avatar

      Soon Chinese will be immune to any form of toxic and take over the world…

  • avatar

    There’s a particularly pungent smell in those German cars mentioned that appears over time. Sooner in the sun belt, but it seems like they use a unique foam/cushion formula that gives off that smell as it decays. I wouldn’t call it overwhelming, but it’s definitely noticeable.

    • 0 avatar

      In some VAG products, that smell is… crayons! I know that’s the case in VWs from 10-15 years ago, but given how easily comparable it is to a common odor, I assume they’ve replaced that chemical with something new.

      • 0 avatar

        They still use the yellow wax for rust prevention. I used to smell the crayon smell clearly in my 2003 Jetta, but haven’t noticed it yet in my 2012. I bought the 2012 at the end of summer though so I’m thinking I’ll smell crayons again when it gets hot again this year.

      • 0 avatar

        Crayons yes! My sisters 04(?) Jetta smelled of crayons. Drove me crazy.

        None of my Audis smelled that way.

      • 0 avatar

        BMWs also get the crayon smell, though mainly in the trunk. Everyone I have owned or driven has it.

      • 0 avatar

        Crayon is good smell in comparison. We’re talking old car smell at an early age. BMW and Mercs starts to smell like an original ’60s muscle car in just 5 to 10 years. VAG products, not so much.

  • avatar

    While I’m sure the Chinese air quality has a well-deserved reputation, I was in India last year and if Beijing air is worse, I shudder to think of the asthma statistics going forward in Asia. I’d rather breathe P-z emitted air from a Civic than that foul concoction in Kolkata.

  • avatar

    Its a relief to step into Harbor Freight after driving around in a BMW all day.

  • avatar

    Sneaky ploy by the Chinese media to drive customers away from foreign cars and towards Chinese ones. Much easier than sending Navy ships to a bunch of rocks in the ocean to slash Japanese market share ;)

  • avatar

    On the positive side concerning the air quality in China, you don’t have to pay for Iron supplements. You can inhale all the iron you want for free.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    The nerve of these Commies, when their crappy, unsafe cars finally get here, we’ll blame them for the rash of service advisers shootings at Chinese brand dealers.

  • avatar

    What did the Germans do to annoy the Chinese Communist Party?

    Furthermore, everytime I sat in an air conditioned car in China, the air recirculation switch is on. I don`t know what was worse, breathing the nasty pollution or the stale air in the car.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    What could smell worse than boiled cabbage and noodles mixed with strange looking rabbit?
    Yet again the chinese make some outrageous comment to in attempt to destroy a reputation . What they will never seem to realize is the the rest of the world is the source of their new found wealth.
    I am waiting for the day when they call in the loans to western countries. Countries such as Greece and Portugal where they compete with the germans to lend money……

  • avatar

    What the Chinese auto press is reporting is this:

    These assembled-in-China German cars are found to be using damping sheets made from asphalt-type of material. Chinese press is claiming that in cars bound for EU / North America, damping sheets are made from other material. But due to the lack of regulations in China, the Germans can and are getting away with using cheaper damping sheets made from asphalt, which gives off noxious fumes in the hot weather.

    I have no idea if any of the claims by the Chinese auto press is correct.

    • 0 avatar

      If that’s so then I don’t see the point in complaining their getting the same car for less price, just with a little smell.

      Asphalt based sound deadeners/heat control/vibration control are great things, the fumes are minimal to nothing, unless your driving in 100+ all day it’s really unlikely it would get bad, but anything to complain….

      • 0 avatar


        Their beef is that if asphalt-based sheets were not good enough for Germans and Americans, then why should they be ok for Chinese?

        It’s kinda hard to argue against that logic, since Chinese consumers are not exactly getting a price break on the German cars. And the manufacturers ignore the outcry at their peril. As mentioned in the original article, VW has just been forced to conduct a massive recall in China for 380k cars due to the DSG transmissions. One of the factors in the PR debacle leading up to the recall was the fact that VW had conducted similar recalls in the other markets, yet was dragging its feet in rolling out the same recall in China.

        Chinese consumers nowadays are very sensitive about the perceived double-standards foisted on them by the multi-nationals.

        • 0 avatar

          True, but when 98% of everything coming out of china is junk, why should they expect the rest of us to send quality goods to a “developing” country (I suppose that’s it’s current transition period)

          But nevertheless you make a valid point.

  • avatar

    I don’t know about Chinese editions of German junk, but I sat in a Genesis 2.0T coupe that was on display in a Hyundai showroom which was saturated with the worst stench this side of a plastic fire. I don’t think I could have sat in it with the door closed.

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