MINI's head of design said the brand is ditching leather in order to be more sustainable. | Mini Cooper

Leather Free Car of Our Dreams: MINI to Ditch Animal Skins

MINI's head of design says the company is going leather-free to be more sustainable.

British car marque MINI is going leather-free in favor of recycled interiors.

According to Oliver Heilmer—MINI’s head of design—the BMW-owned brand is ditching leather in order to be more eco-friendly.

Heilmer made the comments to British car magazine Autocar. He revealed the company no longer considers leather to be sustainable. “We’re totally convinced that we will have modern and high-value products without leather,” he said.

He explained that the MINI seats will feature 100 percent recycled fabric. The car seats’ underlining will feature 70 percent recycled fabric. 

In addition to being sustainable, Heilmer said the animal-free interior will feature a timeless design. “It’s inventive simplicity. Materials will be recycled, but they’re luxurious at the same time,” he continued. “We used cork in the Urbanaut [concept]. The aesthetics will be coming more from a home perspective, rather than an automotive one.”

Heilmer did not mention whether or not leather-free interiors would be implemented in the company’s cars immediately. LIVEKINDLY has reached out to MINI and Heilmer for comment.

MINI is going leather-free, according to the brand’s head of design. | Mini Cooper

Leather-Free Cars

MINI isn’t the first car company to go leather-free. A number of carmakers have ditched leather in favor of more sustainable and animal-friendly materials.

In 2016, Tesla began using synthetic leather in lieu of animal-derived leather in select models. It may have been easy for the company to implement leather-free seating. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Elon Musk, said making leather-free heated steering wheels wasn’t as easy.

“I believe we were close to having a non-heated steering wheel, that’s not leather,” Musk explained at an annual shareholder meeting. “There are some challenges when heating the non-leather material and also how well it wears over time.” However, in 2019, Tesla tweeted: “Model 3 interior is now 100% leather-free.”

The models feature leather-free, non-heated steering wheels, instead. 

Ford’s all-electric Mustang Mach-E is free of animal leather. And Porsche’s new electric model, the Taycan, gives customers a vegan leather interior option. The vehicle’s floor has an Econyl recycled fiber made from recycled fishing nets.

In August 2020, BMW revealed its 5-series would feature a sustainable, vegan leather interior called Sensatec leatherette. The brand’s i3 features recycled plastic and seat fabric and its iNEXT electric SUV will have a vegan interior.