In 2012, we inducted Kia Motors into The Hog Ring‘s “Hall of Shame” for fooling customers into believing that its popular Sportage SUV was trimmed in genuine leather — when, in fact, it featured almost no real leather at all. In 2013, we inducted Toyota Motor Corporation when it attempted to do the same.
Sadly, it’s come to the point where we may soon have to induct the entire industry — as passing off faux leather for the genuine article has become an epidemic.
The practice, which is misleading at best and illegal at worst, has raised numerous red flags with consumer advocates. However, shrewd legal protections — namely through the use of complicated fine print — has allowed it to continue.
A recent article published by Australian automotive news site Drive explains:
As the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi increasingly rely on fake leather in their more affordable models, many mainstream manufacturers sell cars with a blend of genuine leather and synthetic vinyl seats, but some are ambiguous when describing their products. […]
A disclaimer for interior trim described by Hyundai as “leather seating with heated front seats” goes on to say “finishes specified as leather may contain elements of genuine leather, polyurethane leather (leather substitute) or man-made materials, or a combination thereof”.
Further information surrounding an “indulgent leather interior” in the new Mazda6 reveals that man-made “Maztex” vinyl replaces conventional hide “on selected high-impact surfaces”.
Honda updated its website this week when asked to clarify interior trim on the popular CR-V, which is now described as having “non-leather on selected high impact areas”.
However the downloadable brochure for the same car doesn’t clarify that the leather trim contains non-leather components.
Mazda and Honda said they use faux leather on side bolsters, head restraints and seat backs, though neither company gives a public breakdown of where the fake stuff is used. [more]
When pressed to explain their actions, automakers have countered that the synthetic materials they use are more durable and just as comfortable as genuine leather — which may be true. However, it’s not what customers want or what they’re being led to believe they’re paying for.
Still, the deceitful practice isn’t likely to end any time soon. Recent advancements that make it difficult to discern between fake and real leather, coupled with the industry’s push to make affordable cars look and feel more premium, will ensure that.
Of course, folks can always take their cars to independent auto upholstery shops where they can see, feel and choose the hides we use to trim their interiors. Or, if they prefer, we can order ready made bespoke covers from Alea Leather, which plays no games when it comes to quality hides.
Believe it or not, we are quickly becoming the last bastion in automotive leather craftsmanship.