Kia Motors is being criticized for misleading customers into believing that its popular Sportage SUV is trimmed in genuine leather – when, in fact, it features almost no real leather at all.
The issue came to light after a member of an owners’ forum noticed that Kia had updated its online spec sheet with an asterisk next to its mention of “luxurious full leather” to let customers know that it was, in fact, faux.
The UK’s Auto Express explains:
Dr. Chris Castelli from Swindon in Wiltshire got in touch with Auto Express to complain. “About a year ago, I bought a Sportage KX-3 with full leather,” he said. “I’m a member of an owners’ forum, and a little while ago someone on there noticed that an asterisk had been added to the online spec details.
“This asterisk was linked to a footnote that said: ‘Some parts of the leather upholstery contain faux leather.’”
A call to customer services confirmed that the disclaimer applied to cars built and sold before it was added. “We all feel like we’ve been misled,” said Chris. “The original brochure described ‘luxurious full leather’, but when you actually ask Kia about this, it turns out there’s actually very little leather used. It’s mainly plastic or vinyl.”
We asked Kia if it agreed it had misled customers and whether it would be offering unhappy owners compensation.
A spokeswoman told us the phrase ‘full leather’ was intended to differentiate it from the part-leather upholstery (which combines leather and cloth) used on lower-spec models. And that the use of faux leather was common among manufacturers.
She added: “We do recognise that our use of the term ‘full leather upholstery’ may be misconstrued,” – so this phrase will no longer be used. “No deliberate attempt was made to mislead customers,” she said, but no compensation would be offered to them. [more]
In other words, Kia blames customers for misinterpreting its description of “full-leather upholstery” to mean real, full-leather upholstery. It’s absolutely shameful, to say the least.
Still, I can’t help feel a little bit amused by the fact that Kia drivers can’t tell the difference between real and faux leather. It’s true that manufacturers have gotten really good at making fake leather look, feel and sometimes even smell like the real thing. But if you can’t tell the difference, why splurge the extra cash to begin with?
Naseem Muaddi says
A customer once brought his newer BMW to my shop for seat repair. I was surprised to find out the seats were 100% viny. Needless to say he was even more surprised.
“Leather seating surfaces” was the phrase used for many years on auto stickers. Many people still did not realize that all the trim was vinyl, even headrests, armrests, and in some cases, the entire rear seat. Very few vehicles actually came with full leather interiors.
Julie Breyen says
I am one of the idiots who purchased a Kia Sedona with faux leather seats. I actually wanted fabric, but the salesperson convinced me the “leather” seats would be much better for me due to the fact that I have a Labrador retriever who goes everywhere with me. I expressed concerns about wear and tear from a dog, but he assured me that he had never heard of dogs damaging leather seats. It was three weeks after purchasing the vehicle that I discovered several holes in my back seats caused by my dogs toenails. This is when I discovered by searching online that my seats are not leather. Yes, leather will hold up to a large dog. Vinyl will not. After more than a month of promises to make things right (seat covers, reimbursement, new fabric, etc.) Kia has yet to actually do anything to resolve the issue.
Lara Lewis says
So glad to know that my new kia will not have a real leather interior as I love the look and feel but cannot stand the fact that animal skin would be used for car interiors. The cruelty involved in this is criminal. I read an article that explained how a mustang car leather interior requires the skins of 15 large bulls! This is disgraceful. And that they prefer southern German bulls because the hide has less insect bites!! I really hope all car manufacturers going forward will stop using real leather for car interiors which will help lessen the insane cruelty we inflict on animals for human gratification.
Andrea Dew says
Hi Lara, I totally agree and I am looking for a car with non leather in the interior due to the cruelty involved. Anyone doubting this should do a little research into how animals are killed for their hides, not to mention toxification of rivers and the enviromement with all the treatments used to cure it. This can also affect people living and working nearby.
Allison Andrews says
I agree with you 100%! My family is hoping Kia will offer vegan leather as an option – no “tricking” us, this is what we want!
Alexandra maples says
Speak for yourself. Despite the tanning process, leather is more sustainable, durable, and of a higher quality than plastic.
I don’t mind vegan leather as long as it helps me keep clean and that Kia should use the term most people can relate or understand rather than using other terms to trick and have misconstrued thoughts. I love leather and have leather couch because my kids are a mess and we have a dog. Having fake leather will not last andcfabrics will get stained so fast. When I bought my Niro eco hybrid, I asked about leather seats and salesman never stated it was fake or synthetic but rather gave me an elaborated misconstrued version saying that it is special made leather that helps keep seats cool in the summer and easily warm in winter when you sit in it. He never stated it is faux and man-made leather like. I can tell if they are real or fake when I look closely. But most vehicles that have genuine leather have only the top part where you sit and have direct contact but the leather that wraps around the side and backs are faux and synthetic. Leather do age and can still get crack n stained but it does not get torn or poke a hole easy like faux leather. I bought tgis car bacuse I liked the look and design of interior and how roomy it is and the fact that it saves gas for my needs. I was willing to pay more during this time of shortage to drive a more efficient car that served a purpose rather than a fancy car you pay to run errands. It isn’t a luxury I can afford right now. Luxury can wait when I can afford without reserve in cost of maintenance and worrying the gas price increase during g inflation or summer travels. I am happy with my purchase for the time being for at least 5 years before I am ready to switch to all EV which will be more stable and hopefully less charging time and more charging station availability where there are gas stations available.