Tom Rowlands of Houston was disappointed last year when the new-car smell in his family's Ford station wagon faded faster than he expected. Though he had banned french fries and gym shoes, the unmistakable scent of newness was gone just weeks after he drove off the dealer's lot, according to the Wall Street Journal. "It's like, when the smell is gone, your new car is gone," he sighed. Rowlands isn't alone in his disappointment, according to the Journal. That pungent odor Americans so fondly associate with the delights of driving a fresh-from-the-factory vehicle is disappearing faster these days. And it isn't accidental. The harsh truth is that the spanking-new aroma comes from fumes given off by all the plastics, lubricants, coatings, cleaners and glues used to make a new car. In chemical and environmental circles, those fumes are known as volatile organic compounds. And they have a bad reputation in the auto industry for fogging windows with a murky residue and weakening and discoloring other plastic parts inside a car.