Automobile shopping invariably entails tough decisions, but vegans face an added annoyance. Sure, the base models of most cars typically feature cloth upholstery, but leather is commonly included in options packages. So if you order the nicer stereo or the sport suspension, you’re often “upgraded” to leather seats or a leather steering wheel. And some luxury cars make leather a standard part of the interior, and offer no alternatives.
Ethical considerations aside, leather is a terrible choice for automotive upholstery. It’s cold and hard in winter, slick and hot in the summer. Worse, a spilled drink or little rain from a window left open can destroy your seats in minutes. And why on earth would anyone wrap a steering wheel in leather? That’s just icky.
Sadly, you may have to cross certain cars off your shopping list if you want to avoid leather. If that’s the case, be sure to email the manufacturer that they’ve missed out on a sale.
Fortunately, more and more car buyers and wanting to avoid leather—and automobile manufacturers are finally taking notice.
Which Cars Are Vegan?
Inexpensive new cars typically come standard with cloth seats and a steering wheel that’s not wrapped with leather. Of course, you should check that that’s the case for the cars that interest you. And you’ll also need to make sure any upgrade packages you order don’t include leather. Too often, if you want a better stereo or a sport suspension, leather seats or a leather steering wheel will come with the package.
With high-end cars, even the base models frequently may come with leather. Fortunately, both Mercedes and BMW use premium synthetics for the base models of all but their top-end brands.
Here are some notes on other high-end car cars that sport vegan interiors:
- Tesla: The company’s Model 3 originally included a leather steering wheel by default, but all new Model 3s purchased today now roll off the line with premium non-leather seats and a vegan steering wheel.
- Ford: The Ford Mustang Mach-E comes standard with all-vegan interiors, including a vegan steering wheel.
- Toyota: While Toyota does offer leather seats and steering wheels in some models, it’s easy to find a vegan Toyota. Look for Softex, Toyota’s vegan leather alternative, in premium or upgraded Toyota models. Base model Toyotas generally come with cloth seats.
- BMW Minis: In 2021 the company announced that all future minis, starting with the 2022 model year, will ditch leather. Their design chief said, “We don’t need leather any more in the future, because we don’t believe it’s sustainable. We’re totally convinced that we will have modern and high-value products without leather.”
Vegan cars have become far more commonplace over the past decade. There’s every reason to expect this trend to continue in the coming years.