If I want to have the top safety features on a car, I’d usually be forced to have leather seats. Nowadays, a lot of consumers are avoiding animal products in cars as well as in food, voting with their wallets against the environmental and animal welfare aspects of factory farming.
Is there any flexibility in the car industry on this matter? I don’t see why I can’t buy cloth or faux leather interiors without sacrificing the all-important safety features.
Richardson: Wendy makes a very good point. Many buyers associate leather with luxury, but there are also many buyers who want nothing to do with animal products. And these days, there are plenty of materials that are just as comfortable and practical as leather – maybe even more so.
Gentile: And moving forward we’ll see more manufacturers bringing cars to market with environmentally-friendly materials in the upholstery and carpeting. The interior of the Polestar 2 all-electric vehicle, for example, is completely animal free – 100 per cent vegan inside!
Richardson: Actually, Volvo – which owns Polestar as its performance brand – has already committed to not have any leather or animal products in any of its vehicles by 2030. Good for Volvo, I say.
Gentile: I don’t think any other car makers have made such a broad commitment.
Richardson: You know, I really don’t like leather car seats anyway. They get slippery with age, and they have to be heated in the Canadian winter. I once drove a luxurious Ford Five Hundred sedan with thick unheated leather upholstery in a week of 20-below weather and it took an hour every morning for the seats to get warm. I needed to sit on a blanket to protect myself from hemorrhoids.
Gentile: Ick. Too much info. I had leather seats in my last car, but I skipped them when I bought a new car. And I don’t miss them a bit. And honestly, some of the vegan materials in vehicles like the Polestar feel comfortable and look great, too.
Richardson: It’s true that the top-end trims that include all the bells and whistles usually include leather upholstery – though sometimes, that “leather” is not really leather at all.
Gentile: Exactly. It’s often labelled “leatherette,” but who knows what that is made of? I’m banking, it’s not anything environmentally-friendly.
Richardson: PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, claim they’ve pressured plenty of automakers to produce non-leather, non-wool cabins for vehicles. The Tesla Model 3 has this option, and it’s especially so for the more futuristic electric cars like the Volkswagen ID.4 and Mercedes-Benz EQS.
Gentile: It’s about time. For the first time ever, Audi is offering a leather-free interior as standard in its new 2022 e-tron GT. Even the carpets and mats are made of recycled material from waste dumped in the sea, like fishing nets and plastic.
Richardson: Leather surfaces are usually easier to clean because spilled liquids aren’t absorbed as quickly as they are by cloth, but all fabrics can be treated to repel liquid better, and some fabrics are created with this in mind.
Gentile: Some manufacturers, like General Motors, even have special fabric that’s super easy to clean. The Canadian-made Equinox has durable denim-like seat fabric and available leather-trimmed seats with a new treatment that resists staining and scuffing. So you don’t have to worry about new jeans bleeding into leather surfaces or scuffs from black leather boots or belts.
Richardson: I don’t think Wendy wears black leather boots or belts.
Gentile: But she may have kids who do. I love the direction the auto industry is going with these new vegan interiors and I think Wendy will appreciate the changes in the cars to come.
Richardson: Yeah – it’s as if nobody really thought about it before, but now the subject’s been raised, the car makers are very much aware of it. It’s all a move in the right direction.
What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at firstname.lastname@example.org and use ‘What car’ as part of your subject line. Emails with different subject lines may not be answered.
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