Leather may not be king for much longer.
Leather has been a symbol of automotive luxury since the horseless carriage was conceived. However, times are changing. Automakers are looking for ways to separate themselves from the pack and to be a bit friendlier to the environment and the world's livestock. Signe Brewster of BBC Autos went in search of potential replacements for leather. Surprisingly, the list of alternatives is pretty damn long and filled with quite a few surprising substitutes.
Yeah, faux leather is on there, but did you know that pineapple leaves can be used to create faux suede? Pinatex, created by Carmen Hijosa, is the name of this unique material. The idea is to make use of discarded pineapple leaves that come from the 25 millions of tons of pineapples harvested each year. The finished product is a quarter the weight of real leather and is sold at two-thirds the price. It's currently used to make clothing and purses, in addition to car seats. It doesn't look half bad in its current form, but we're sure the look and quality could be improved upon if a heavy-hitter like BMW were to work with it. Another alternative listed was carbon fiber, with the Lamborghini Aventador J and its seats cited as a real-world example.
While carbon fiber is renowned for being lightweight and able to take a beating we don't know if it makes the best seat. The seats on the Aventador J don't look all that comfortable. What does look comfy are the silk seats made by Maserati and men's clothing company Ermenegildo Zegna. Silk is still a bit pricey, so we doubt it could ever really usurp leather completely. On the other hand wool is cheaper and easier to acquire. A Swedish company called Climatex weaves wool with synthetic fiber to give the wool a longer shelf life. A company called Lantal has already used the combo to make bus seats. Of Signe's selections the one we'd most like to see get some serious play is the faux pineapple suede.
Using pineapple leaves to make car seats would make pineapple farming more sustainable. It would also give automakers a low-cost alternative to crappy cloth seats. Car companies are always looking for ways to stand out, especially when it comes to cheaper cars that are volume sellers. Pineapple suede seats as standard sounds like a good way to get noticed, at least to us...and to those who really like eating pineapples.