Toyota Busted for Faux Leather Claims

Published by Nadeem Muaddi on February 12th, 2013

We recently inducted Kia Motors into The Hog Ring‘s “Hall of Shame” for duping customers into believing that its popular Sportage SUV is trimmed in genuine leather – when, in fact, it features almost no real leather at all.

Sadly, we must now induct Toyota Motor Corporation for a similar offense.

According to the Herald Sun, a popular Aussie newspaper, the Japanese automaker made false claims about leather interiors in several of its models for approximately four years.

Toyota has been busted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for making false claims about leather seats across several car ranges sold between 2005 and 2009.

They were in fact partial or faux leather.

”The ACCC was concerned that consumers were likely to have been misled by these claims. If consumers are prepared to pay a premium to have quality finishes for their car interiors, they are entitled to get what they paid for,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

Toyota issued a statement today apologising to customers: ”Toyota Australia acknowledges the statement from Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. We apologise if any customer felt they were misled as a result of our advertising.” […]

Toyota says that as soon as it became aware of the issue it changed advertising to ‘leather accent’ or ‘leather accented’. [more]

In other words, Toyota – like Kia – is not owning up to its lies. Instead, it’s blaming customers for being either unknowledgeable or gullible. And, to make matters worse, is attempting to appease the situation by using another misleading term – “leather accented”.

If Toyota was really interested in honest advertising, it would use clear and obvious terms that customers are already familiar with – like faux or synthetic leather.

13 Responses

  1. Gtrimming Gjudd says:

    surprised Merc haven’t been done to be honest,the number of times a merc owner thinks thay have have full leather when its full vinyl is quite shocking!

    • I think it’s likely that more automakers will be exposed for this in the coming years.

      Like you, I’m surprised by the number of car owners who are mislead to believe that their interiors are premium leather when that’s just not the case.

  2. Gtrimming Gjudd says:

    The “would you like matching vinyl” never goes down well…LOL

  3. Jeffrey Jeffrey says:

    mislead ? is a mistake by the consumer .
    They have to know the differences between full and a real-leather interior.
    The fact is that they don`t know and the dealers not tell, but just sell real-leather.
    You can sell legally real-leather if there is 20% organic material in you product, i guess.
    Only by full-leather everything is leather!

    Remember its a marketing world we live in!

    So live your live the Fullest 😉

  4. Neil Malone says:

    Most dealers overprice their options, particularly “leather” seats. So it might be better to just save money at the dealership, buy your car in a standard trim and then go visit Katzkin and order real leather instead…which is probably still cheaper than a dealer’s marked up price.

  5. Jeffrey Jeffrey says:

    Overpriced ?
    There are differences in what you can buy ofcourse
    The original-leather or after-market interiors !
    I guess the differences are alot stronger in europa then in the us.

  6. carolinaauto carolinaauto says:

    99% of my customers are suprised when I tell them most leather seats are not all leather, but a matching vinyl on the sides and back. Just had a Subaru come by today and most of the seats except for a couple of panels on top and bottom were real leather, and he was very suprised being it was a 2011.

  7. carolinaauto carolinaauto says:

    correction on above post …. most of the seats were vinyl except for a couple of panels which were leather.

  8. mk1madness says:

    I know that Chrysler usa only do the seat centres in leather and even the side bolsters are vinyl , very poor in my opinion !

  9. sewlow says:

    North American vehicles have been upholstered in the leather/vinyl combo since the mid-’50’s.
    Only the faces are leather.
    Bands & backs, along with door-panels & all other trim in vinyl.
    It’s a question I ask the resto guys.
    “Do you want it as original?”
    “Yup! All leather!”
    Ahhh…just a sec.
    Once I explain, most realize the value of a proper & correct restoration, then they will specify the interior to be done ‘as original’.
    Other guys will specify…’ALL leather.”
    It’s not original & as long as they understand that, along with that greater cost, O.K., if that’s what they want…

  10. Ashraf says:

    Most interiors by japanese korean usa and german manufacturers contain faux leather.

    Truth is in south africa i was interviewed few years back by a very prominent consumer show show casing the difference between leather and faux leather.Infact i took some of the manufacturers to task and some being our clients competing directly with imported OEM interiors against our full leather leather interior.

    The reality of it is that each vehicle competing in a specific segment is built to a budget to compete against various offerings from other manufacturers and including the tastes of the consumer.

    Worldwide there is a decline in the consumption of beef but at the same time the raw hide price escalation means leather for OEM or to OEM specifications becomes more expensive as well as aftermarket leather.Aftermarket Leather which has been pioneered by us in South Africa too has come under pressure because certain tanneries in the world have decided to skimp on quality and therefore the thickness of the material has come from what normally should be between 1.2mm and 1.4mm down to 1mm.

    End result aftermarket leather interiors given a bad name.

    The result of my interview we educated the consumer about the differences and how not to be duped into buying fake leather interiors and worst substandard interiors manufactured out of leather but not conforming to specifications which are important.

    To name a few vehicles which carry faux leather mercedes benz artico interior bmw 3 series for the first time has a faux or vinyl leather combination interior.vw interiors landrover etc just to name a few.

    Remember OEMs need to compete against each other as well as consumers looking for the best possible deal.

    In relation to genuine leather interiors its going to get more expensive and this now lends its self to vinyl or synthetic interiors which are eco friendly example ford fusion.

    The customisation options and different purchasing segments will now or as we know already is affected by the rise of the connected consumer.

    People are more techno savvy and more educated.The new millenial generation are look for quick fast efficient customised services that wont break the bank.Truth be told the old way of looking at leather interior will begin to be phased out of various vehicle segments as synthetic eco friendly products provide the same level of abrasion resistance quality and aesthtic beauty as natural leather.

    Leather will become the point of middle to upper class offerings and begin to become extremely expensive as the beef price fluctuates worldwide which in turn has a bearing on the raw hide price.

    We all felt this about two years ago when the two largest purveyors of RAW hides in the world amalgamated being JBS Brasil and Marfrig Group Uruguay.

    The end result shortage of hides worldwide escalating prices to levels we still havent recovered from.

    Dont expect it to go away any time soon.As more and more eco friendly products become available auto manufacturers are making the switch and if you read why JCI left the industry is simply because margins are tight and auto manufacturers are looking to squeeze every penny from every supplier in an effort to be profitable.Not only that but are tied to strict long ended payment terms which realistically just creates a cycle of credit.

    Dont be surprised when suddenly the local tannery says hide price increase because this is the world of consumerism the more we get the more we want.

  11. R.Moodley says:

    In 2010 I asked Toyota Mc Carthy Durban North to change seats from fabric to black leather ,before I took ownership of the car.Later I noticed it started to peel off,then I realized it was not leather.took the car to the dealership-his response it only carries 3 year warranty,after I told him it was fraud,he then phoned the supplier and said to them it was not normal wear and arranged for them to see the car and directed me the supplier who fitted the leather seats. His response was”it is plastic and they did not cover the seats”.as I was getting no joy from them I wrote to Toyota South Africa and they referred me go the dealership.For 5 years I was sitting on plastic and not lather.When your invoice reads leather and you plastic then it is fraud. and fraud’s warranty does not expire.

  12. James Resseguie says:

    We had problems with the “leather” in my wife’s 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid. The car had less than 16000 miles and just under 4 years old on a 8 year extended warranty. The thin layer of foam between the “leather and the hard foam had bunched up and was causing the finish to wear off the “leather”. I took it to the dealer and was informed it was not covered. I ended up taking it to an upholstery shop. They matched the color as close as possible with a real leather. One is a light grey the other is light grey with a hint of tan, but it is not too noticeable unless the sun is directly on it. In the last 45 years we have always had at least one Toyota, but this may be my last. I also own a 2004 Jaguar XKR with 56,000 and a 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid with 76,000 both have leather interiors and neither has given me a problem and both look like new. I always maintain them properly. The stuff Toyota calls “leather” is junk.

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