26 October 2021
Tesla owners are complaining that their vegan leather upholstery is bubbling, and that the automaker refuses to do anything about it, writes Nadeem Muaddin on The Higg Ring
Community members on Tesla Motors Club, a popular forum for Tesla owners, say the upholstery on their seats is not up to par.
One member, Gidster99, recently said that the upholstery on her driver seat’s insert panel has formed an unsightly bubble.
When Gidster99 contacted Tesla about the issue, they said the bubble was her fault, and therefore not covered under warranty.
According to Gister99, here’s Tesla’s response: “After submitting the photos supplied of your driver seat concern for investigation with our engineers, the root cause has been advised is due to ‘Anything from lotions, sunscreen, hair sprays or gels, hand sanitizers, e-cigarette or vape pen liquid, cleaning products, swimming pool chlorine.’ Due to the issue not being a manufacturing defect, we’re unable to process a replacement seat as a warranty claim.”
Gidster99 said Tesla’s answer is inadequate because she didn’t use any lotions or chemicals on the seat, and none could have rubbed off from the portion of her body that touched it.
She asked other Tesla owners if their vegan leather upholstery also bubbled. Many said it did, especially on the headrests.
Envchem, one forum member, said a Tesla rep told him that the damage to his headrest was caused by hair products. “When I mentioned that I have no hair, they claimed it was the oils from my skin,” he said.
“At the end, they replaced it under warranty as a gesture of goodwill one time only,” he said. “I was advised to wipe the headrest each time I am off the car… ended up putting on a seat cover. Looks ugly, but saves me the trouble.”
GRiLLA, another member, shared an excerpt from his Tesla’s handbook, which cautions: “Using solvents (including alcohol), alcohol-based gel products (such as hand sanitizer), bleach, citrus, naphtha, or silicone-based products or additives on interior components can cause damage.”
A Tesla owner told Drive Tesla Canada that when he experienced similar issues, a company rep told him oily skin and beauty products have an adverse effect on Tesla’s brand of vegan leather.
“The root cause is related to the vegan polyurethane resin being susceptible to swell under the action of certain chemicals, some of which are found in cosmetics and head oil within a certain pH spectrum,” the owner said he was told. “When there is extended contact with the chemical at high temperature (a hot car), the chemical diffuses into the coating, it swells, overwhelms the adhesive holding the coating to the textile, and the coating delaminates. A bubble is formed.”
We reached out to Tesla to clarify the issue, but have not heard back.
Regardless, it’s an interesting development, especially with how popular Tesla’s vegan leather has become.
But as one member of the Tesla Motors Club forum pointed out: “If a product which you sit on can’t cope with the oil from people’s skin [or ordinary beauty products], then it’s surely not fit for purpose!”
Draw your own conclusions and maybe you should choose an auto manufacturer that does not impose vegan or synthetic materials and interiors on you and gives you the choice to have a real, durable leather interior.