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Latest Fragrance Comes in New Pump Dispenser

October 05, 1994|From Associated Press

PARIS — Look out, Chanel. Some of the latest French fragrances are not being sold at fancy boutiques, but at the gas pump.

French drivers can now pull up their Peugeots to the pump and fill up with gasoline that smells more like vanilla than fuel.

The French oil company Total began offering vanilla-scented gasoline and lemony diesel fuel in recent months as part of a campaign to eliminate the unpleasant odor associated with fuel, company spokeswoman Claire Vielot said. Total has since decided to play up its perfumed product through tongue-in-cheek, scratch-and-sniff advertisements in several women's magazines, including Elle. The ads, modeled after perfume publicity, display the four different grades of fine-smelling fuel in elegant, crystal bottles.

The scented fuel was concocted in response to a survey of 240 Total customers that revealed 41% of men and 74% of women disliked the smell of gasoline, Vielot said.

"Our idea was to eliminate the scent of gasoline, not to create a perfumed gasoline," she said.

However, after extensive research matching up scents with the differing fuel grades, a representative panel of Total customers chose a "fruity vanilla" and a lemony scent to grace their gas stations.

According to a follow-up survey, customers' noses were happy. More than 50% of the customers questioned said their gas smelled better, without the strong odor normally associated with gasoline.

For now, the fuel is available at only a handful of stations around the country.

Although first to create scented gasoline, Total follows in the sweet-smelling trail of French oil company Elf Aquitaine.

Elf invented a type of "biomask" to hide the strong smell of their diesel fuels and oil as early as 1990, said Elf spokesman Thomas Saunders.

The biomask hides most of the displeasing diesel odor, but the fuel still smells like fuel, he said.

For Elf, experience in creating good smells comes naturally. The company owns the pharmaceutical company Sanofi, a major player in the global perfume industry. Sanofi produces scents for Yves Saint Laurent, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Oscar de la Renta, among others.

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