Automotive – Continental’s claims for vinyl and PU stretch industry’s patience
13 September 2021

(Editor’s Note: APLF congratulates Leatherbiz on this exposé of how the public is misled about leather and plastics by unsupported claims of sustainability)

Automotive group Continental presented a new concept vehicle, the AMBIENC3, at the IAA Mobility event in Munich in September, reports Leatherbiz.

Laif imitates art in the interior of Continental’s AMBIENC3 concept vehicle.

It sparked a quick and forceful reaction from the leather industry over claims it made around ‘laif’, one of the materials it uses in the vehicle’s interior.

In its presentation of the concept vehicle, Continental said: “Other surfaces in the AMBIENC3 use laif technology, which delivers outstanding breathability and an exceptional soft feel. Offering the look and feel of leather, surfaces with laif technology provide an excellent alternative for which no animal need give up their life.”

Possibly best known for its tyres, Continental decided to move into supplying materials for car interiors in 2016 when it acquired the original developer of laif, Konrad Hornschuch. In its original descriptions of laif, Hornschuch said it was a hybrid of vinyl and polyurethane. It said the material was “thoroughly sustainable and has a green footprint”.

The secretary of the International Council of Tanners, Dr Kerry Senior, has criticised Continental for making these claims around the vinyl-polyurethane hybrid “without qualification”. He said: “Regardless of how it is made, this is plastic and any claim to sustainability or green footprint must be viewed with great scepticism.”

Dr Senior, who is also the director of industry body Leather UK, added: “Sustainable should at least include renewable raw materials to make products that will biodegrade at the end of life. Plastics don’t do this; leather does.”

Leatherbiz has asked Continental for its response to this. At the same time, we asked it to explain its conflation of leather with animals needing to “give up their lives”, pointing out that, while leather is made from by-products from the meat and dairy industry that will continue to accrue whether tanners turn them into leather or not, millions of fish, birds, aquatic mammals and reptiles give up their lives every year because of humanity’s insistence on using vinyl, polyurethane and other plastics.

It’s not leather but laif that is inimical to life.