19 July 2023
Will the arrival of a new vegan steak bake change the car industry? Autocar analyses the growing demand for ‘vegan-labeled’ products and how it affects the car industry. The growing interest is driven by animal welfare and environmental concerns and it doesn’t stick to food only, it spreads to all kinds of products such as leather upholstery. Leather remains popular as a luxury material for car interiors, but with the development of vegan alternatives the market is in turmoil, and some OEMs are removing leather entirely. Report by One 4 Leather.
Lewis Hamilton, seven-time Formula 1 champion, asked his employer Mercedes-Benz to stop using leather and turn to alternatives. These alternatives aren’t new; Toyota has been using Softex, Ferrari offers Mycro Prestige as a vegan option and Mercedes offers Artico, these are all synthetics. Tesla has phased out leather interiors entirely, due to pressure from PETA. The car industry has been slower in capitalizing on the demand for vegan products. This is ironic according to Yvonne Taylor of PETA. She states that many of the biggest companies have been using vegan leather for its high quality and durability for years. Yet, this is not entirely true. In various tests, leather outperforms these materials in durability and resistance. And a material that lasts longer will in the end have the smaller footprint.
The leather director of Leather UK, Dr. Kerry Senior believes in leather as a strong and necessary product for the future. “The reality is that more than 90% of the world’s population eat meat, and that consumption is rising. While this is the case, more than seven million tons of hides and skins will be produced every year, which will need to be dealt with. The most efficient and elegant solution to that problem is the production of leather. Leather is unarguably a byproduct of the meat industry.” These vegan alternatives to leather all use new synthetic chemicals in their production, making this process unfriendly to the environment. Sustainably sourced leather, which is tanned with responsible chemicals, isn’t harmful for the environment in any way, making this product more sustainable than leather alternatives.