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Mini dumps leather – a sign of change to come?

According to an interview with Mini’s design boss, Oliver Heilmer, the beloved car brand will soon no longer be offering a leather fit-out in any of its vehicles, instead going down the route of doing away with the material and turning vegan.

His remarks cited the sustainability – or lack thereof – as part of the reason why the brand is ditching the material in its next release, despite the fact that more than half of the company’s cars sold in the UK last year featured leather interiors.

Mini will instead opt for more “sustainable” fabrics according to Heilmer, arguing “we’re totally convinced that we will have modern and high-value products without leather.”


Mini isn’t alone, nor first for that matter

The company isn’t the first to make the move to ditch leather. In 2019, Tesla was among the first to announce that it would only utilise vegan fabrics in the cabin of its Model 3 sedan and Model Y SUV.

Elsewhere, a host of other brands have used faux leather in place of the real thing, and among European manufacturers, there have been plans to incorporate recycled materials such as plastic bottles in an effort to embrace a sustainable focus.

Even in the massive American market, electric car start-up Fisker is a brand positioning itself for an eco and sustainability-oriented future. Its Ocean SUV that is currently in development is set to use a large array of recycled materials like regenerated nylon from fishing nets for the carpet, recycled polyester from t-shirts to act as eco-suede upholstery, not to mention tyre waste for various other components in the car.



What matters to the consumer?

It raises an interesting proposition for future new car buyers – how important are those ‘luxury’ touches that many of us have become accustomed to seeing? With this being the first in a potentially broad and all-encompassing effort to introduce other materials that are more sustainable that their existing counterparts, there could be some interesting changes on the horizon.

However, given pricing isn’t exactly an area that would be in line for a reduction as part of the eco push, would you buy a premium car and be content with fabric finishes or recycled materials being incorporated across the board?

More broadly, is Mini’s move the beginning of a wider shift among car manufacturers to do away with leather and opt alternative materials instead?