Luxury Without Leather: Will Vegan Cars Gain Popularity?
Do a Google search for “vegan car” and the first result is likely to involve Tesla. The company is the first luxury automaker to offer a 100 percent animal-free vehicle.
That, of course, means no leather seats, no leather steering wheel, no leather gear shifter, and no animal products in the glue that holds everything together.
Luxury cars have become synonymous with leather, but for people who are compassionate about the treatment of animals, the idea of leather can be repulsive. It’s a growing community of folks but the world’s most prominent automakers have yet to conform to their wishes and build cars that are truly animal-free.
One writer spent at least four months trying to sort out which cars use animal products and which don’t. His results are surprising because so few vehicles are completely free of animal skins or byproducts.
How likely is that to change?
If you want to buy a new Audi, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Lincoln, Acura, or Volvo, you won’t be able to escape the presence of processed cowhide. Even automakers that offer synthetic leather seating still sell their cars with a genuine leather-wrapped steering wheel, which can’t be replaced with another material.
The only cars, aside from the Tesla, that offer completely animal-free cars are base models of certain lower-end Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Subaru, and Fiat vehicles. That means they’ll come with cloth seats, urethane steering wheels, and the smallest engines available. Driving enthusiasts need not apply.
The vast majority of car shoppers demand leather and expect it in higher-end cars, which is why the automakers have made the material so prolific. It’s impossible, quite literally, to buy a new mass-produced performance or luxury car that is made without animal products. Even ordering a custom one-off version is unlikely due to rigid manufacturing processes.
Leather isn’t a problem for most buyers, but for the growing segment of the population who call themselves vegan, car shopping can be an exercise in futility. It doesn’t seem like that’ll change anytime soon.