No an­i­mals were harmed

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

FAKE leather is bet­ter than real leather. That’s the view of an in­creas­ing num­ber of pres­tige car cus­tomers who refuse to buy cars trimmed with cowhide out of con­cern for an­i­mal wel­fare.

Imi­ta­tion leather trim started as a cheap al­ter­na­tive to ac­tual hide but is now sought af­ter by some cus­tomers, es­pe­cially those look­ing at en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly cars.

“We are see­ing quite a lot of de­mand for non-leather ma­te­ri­als in mod­els like the (elec­tric) i3, mainly from ve­g­ans and cus­tomers who are es­pe­cially con­scious,” says BMW Australia spokes­woman Lenore Fletcher.

BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus in­clude imi­ta­tion leather ma­te­rial in some of their mod­els, nor­mally at the lower end of the line-up.

They are up­front about the fact the ma­te­rial is not leather and have given them brand names. BMW has Sen­satec, Mercedes has Ar­tico and Lexus has NuLux.

Benz says it has not logged a big in­crease in cus­tomers stip­u­lat­ing no leather but has re­cently fielded a re­quest from a vis­it­ing celebrity, who has an ar­range­ment to drive Mercedes cars, that the loan ve­hi­cle not in­clude any an­i­mal leather.

All Audi mod­els sold in Australia have some form of real leather trim fit­ted as stan­dard, in­clud­ing the A8 limo that fea­tures head­rests made from New Zealand deer­skin. But the com­pany still has an op­tion for cus­tomers who want to avoid us­ing an­i­mal leather.

“We have the op­tion of hav­ing cloth trim fit­ted at the fac­tory by plac­ing a spe­cial or­der,” says Audi Australia spokesman, Shaun Cleary.

Some cus­tomers are wor­ried about the wel­fare of the cows but oth­ers make much of how many gave their skins to line the door pan­els of their luxury con­veyance.

Rolls Royce boasts that the in­te­rior of ev­ery Phantom it pro­duces con­tains the hides of be­tween 15 and 18 cows.

Land Rover talks about “grain-fed leather” in its lat­est Dis­cov­ery Sport, ar­gu­ing that the way cat­tle are fed af­fects the qual­ity of the leather.

That’s true, but only in a round­about way. The cat­tle are taken from pad­docks and placed in a se­cure feed­lot and fed grain for a pe­riod.

This way, any scratches from barbed wire or tree branches and such can heal (which can take 10 weeks or more).

“The end re­sult is a much cleaner leather with a much bet­ter sur­face,” says South­ern Hide Ex­ports man­ag­ing direc­tor Ian Stokes-Blake.

His com­pany ex­ports hides that are pro­cessed and used for trim in a wide range of pres­tige ve­hi­cles as well as for so­fas, purses and shoes.

He says the de­mand for au­to­mo­tive leather has in­creased steadily since the 1980s, de­spite the ad­vent of imi­ta­tion leather, which he says is largely be­ing pushed by car mak­ers to save money.

Stokes-Blake says leather is a byprod­uct of the meat in­dus­try and that it is only nat­u­ral to use it.

“The peo­ple who might not want leather for what­ever rea­son should also con­sider that imi­ta­tion leather is (pro­duced from) petro­chem­i­cals, which are not great for the en­vi­ron­ment,” he says.

Trim pick­ings: Land Rover’s Dis­cov­ery Sport; (be­low, from left) BMW’s non-leather i3, Rolls-Royce Phantom and Audi A8

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