Range Rover boss unhappy with slaughter for leather
Leather trim has been associated with luxury cars for decades, but Range Rover predicts that will change as consumers become more conscious about their choices.
The brand is targeting ethically-minded customers with a cloth option that replaces leather with New Zealand and Australian-sourced wool blend in its new Velar SUV.
Priced from NZ$1000 to $4500 above leather and vinyl-trimmed models, the interior is prepared by Danish textile specialist Kvdrat and combines a wool blend with faux suede made from recycled plastic bottles.
The car also features perforated "Luxtec" leatherette on the dash and door tops in place of genuine hides.
READ MORE: What exactly is a Range Rover Velar again?
Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern says luxury cars are changing as people become more aware of how materials are sourced.
"The attitude towards animal by-products is changing," he says.
"That whole world of luxury is becoming more sophisticated and people are looking for ways to reconcile the way we use the world to create these products, things like fabrics that are more sustainable and have a better sustainable footprint.
"Personally, I'd be quite happy to move away from leather tomorrow. I don't like that we have to slaughter all those cows to create leather.
"More importantly I think that fabric gives the opportunity to create a different look and feel."
Drive sampled the Kvadrat cabin treatment at the launch of the new Velar and came away impressed. The plastic-sourced, Alcantara-like suede treatment is appropriately plush, and the cloth treatment is a cut above what you'll find in regular production models, feeling similar to the Zegna-sourced silk offered by Maserati.
The wool blend represents a new avenue for Jaguar Land Rover, which will consider extending the treatment to other models in the future.
McGovern says the decision to include a cloth option priced above leather trim was the subject of intense debate.
"You wouldn't believe the anguish the whole idea of having a premium fabric in a car caused, particularly within the marketing group," he says.
"We've been so ingrained within the automotive industry to thinking that when it comes to a premium or luxury product it has to be leather, it has to be real wood. It's quite a western view.
"Fabric has always been seen as something as low end. The difference here is that it is a premium fabric that has a comparable price to leather."
Range Rover isn't the first premium brand to offer a cruelty-free option in high-end cars. Tesla has won support from groups such as Peta for allowing customers to specify leather-free interiors, something
BMW offers on the environmentally-friendly i3 electric car. Other brands including Mercedes-Benz have leather-free options available at special request.
McGovern says a senior member of his design team is vegetarian, with a preference for leather-free goods.
He says the brand should remain flexible in addressing growing demand for animal-friendly products.
"I think that will start, there will be a flow, there will be a change," McGovern says.
"If we can do it in a way that's responsible when the world is changing massively, and sustainable, then I think that's a good thing."