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.
Brent Parker Motor Trimming says
It really is a joke, my mum purchased a new toyota corolla recently which has a hand stitched steering wheel made out of vinyl, if they are going to put vinyl they might aswell just have a vacuum moulded one with no stitching. It doesnt make sense! You would think if you go to the trouble of hand stitching it just put leather on it.
Nadeem Muaddi says
I agree, it’s ludicrous. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people don’t know they’re being had. They think hand-stitched vinyl steering wheel covers are “premium”.
ed wolford says
Most of the hides the automakers use is junk
Not top grain
I get customers requesting leather but don’t even know the difference and have been riding for years on the vinyl seats all the time thinking its leather
It’s amazing how many customers think they have leather seats when 90% of the seat is man made. I was surprised to find a Miata seat that was 100% gl. it is about the only one yet. another group is Harley riders that cant believe their Harley has ughh,a vinyl seat cover.
Brent Parker Motor Trimming says
I also think that a lot of the car salesman quite honestly dont really know either.
What about honda ody 2008. it comes, with stiching wheel steering and leather seats. is is real or fake?
Stephanie M says
I refuse to pay for frivolous cruelty. We have no need or right to enslave, torture, and murder animals so that we can use their skin for ANYTHING. I am glad genuine leather is harder to come by, as it is a deal-breaker for me. I do not want to sit on such a grotesque material!
Kelly M. says
Agree! I don’t understand why people want real leather at all, it’s disgusting and the fake stuff is used for a reason — it’s better.
It is disgusting that people want REAL LEATHER. It’s NOT leather It is SOMEBODY’s FLESH. That Sentient Being Screamed to the top of its Lungs for its Flesh. People need to grow a Conscience and become more Conscious of the Suffering/Torture/Murder they cause. Say NO to Leather!
While I sympathize with you in your opinion. The question here is if we buy a car and pay a premium believing that genuine leather is being used and are duped into thinking so, then that is fraud. While you may ask for a car covered in a material that is far more devastating to the environment in that it is PU or PVC while I would prefer to go with the leather which is biodegradable and would go to waste if everyone thought as you. While I disagree with the way the bovine industry is carried out, I am a meat eater, although very seldom beef. I believe that the use of the leather from slaughtered animals should be best used. We should not be cheated in the process.
Ashley Nicole Martin says
I agree. I had to put a lot of effort in buying my new car with fabric seats and explain myself to the salesperson and managers over and over again. They repeatedly wouldn’t listen when I stated I didn’t want leather seats until I told them that I think it’s horrendous that a cow should die for my car seats. Then they let me buy the cheaper model with cloth seats…
Kelly M. says
I think it is awful when companies lie about their product. But, are you guys aware of where leather comes from? Calves are stripped from their mothers, tourtured and then killed just so we can sit on their skin or wear it. This is “genuine leather”. It’s actually murder and completely inhumane and sad.
Jenniffer Schile says
Good. I don’t wear, use or care to support the leather industry and actually look for the fake stuff instead. It’s more durable and no animals are enslaved or harmed and it’s way better for the environment. Why would I want to sit on dead cow seats?! Gross.
I have seen far too much extreme cruelty in the leather industry most leather comes from India where cows are supposed to be sacred therefore the leather trade is illegal and extremely cruel . Leather coming from china is often from the underground dog meat trade and therefore made from dog skin after the dogs are beaten to death and often skinned whilst still alive .I would NOT want to be sat on real leather knowing the animal it came from was probably subjected to cruelty so I truly hope all car interiors are now made from faux leather which must be just as good if people Carnt tell the difference anyway!
Yay! I am so glad to hear that the seats in my car are not made from someone else’s precious skin! Some traditions aren’t worth keeping – especially once you realize the barbaric torture and cruelty that is actually involved. Moving forward I will do a better job to make sure I’m buying something less nasty than leather (and wool and other insanely barbaric items). Too bad a Vegan Tesla isn’t in my budget!
Does fake leather (Maztex) require oiling or any protection to stop it from pealing/cracking? I had 2 ‘leather’ (some kind of fake leather) couches that required oiling and when not oiled enough and exposes to extra sunlight when shades open they peeled and cracked all over.
I am deciding between cloth and Maztex in a vehicle, and prefer the option of Maztex solely as its easier to clean than cloth when you have kids.