5 Feb 24

New selling points: vegan cars, recycled interiors

You want a vegan car? That’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. Not only is the demand for leather-free car interiors growing, so is the supply. Also in matters of sustainability and safety, the customer’s wish is the manufacturer’s command. 

Many world-changing innovations were first ridiculed and then resisted before they went mainstream. Will the same happen to the priorities and sensibilities of the newest generation of consumers? Veganism, a strong candidate for the most ridiculed of modern persuasions, is a good touchstone. 

Leather interiors are considered enviable: an upgrade in standard models, and often standard in luxury ones. But not to vegans, who shun any and all animal products… which is why they tend to gravitate towards EVs, which don’t use fossil fuels.

 Car manufacturers increasingly offer alternatives to this vocal and growing minority among car buyers. Going vegan while driving is not cheap, though. 

  • From model year 2023, most BMW and Mini models are available with mainly vegan interiors. 
  • Initially, the Tesla Model 3 featured a steering wheel wrapped in leather. Newer Model 3 and Model Y cars now have a vegan steering wheel, and premium synthetic seats.
  • The EQXX (pictured), a Mercedes concept BEV, features an interior made from renewable materials, including mushrooms, cactus, bamboo, and vegan silk. 
  • The Ford Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric SUV, has an all-vegan interior as standard. 
  • Toyota offers models with seats and steering wheels in leather, but also offers interiors in Softex, its vegan leather alternative, in upgraded or premium models. Base models simply have cloth seats. 

Looking at the related field of sustainability, a pattern starts to emerge: yes, your high standards as a consumer can be met – but not in the budget segment of the market. 

More and more car brands are advertising the fact that they use recycled materials in their production process. Not only does it help them reduce their carbon footprint, these examples of the circular economy also help persuade the more eco-conscious among their potential clients. 

A good example is Volvo’s new compact SUV, the EX30, which will feature a range of recycled and renewable materials in its interior:

  • The seats are partially made from used denim jeans material.
  • The dashboard is woven with flax and linseed thread.
  • The door accents are made from recycled vinyl window frames.

As a result, the EX30 has the smallest overall carbon footprint of any Volvo model yet, according to the Swedish manufacturer. 

Funnily enough, this is not a radical break with the past. OEMs have used recyclable and renewable materials – fibers from soy or sugar cane, for example – for years, but typically under the hood. Expect this trend to become more visible, for three good reasons: it reduces carbon footprints, it responds to customer demand, and it’s a selling point that justifies a higher price point. 

Read the E-Book on Real Road to Sustainabilty here

Image: Mercedes-Benz

Authored by: Frank Jacobs