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Is vegan the new premium? BMW plans to ditch leather for a more sustainable option

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  • BMW has been using a variety of alternatives to leather for several years.
  • Vegan interiors will help the company achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. 
  • This new material has high wear resistance and durability.

BMW plans to launch a range of vegan interiors by the end of 2023. These vegan interiors, which will become an alternative to animal-sourced leather, form part of BMW’s relentless pursuit to reduce overall carbon emissions and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. 

BMW has been moving away from leather to more sustainable materials over the years and believes this is the next cutting-edge step for the company’s future. The video above shows the new X7, which features vegan SensaTec leather. 

It is reported that BMW’s proportion of vehicle components that contain traces of raw materials of animal origin will fall to less than one per cent in the respective BMW and MINI vehicles.

According to BMW, most of the emissions produced, around 80%, came in the form of methane gas from cattle rearing. The remaining 20% was accounted for by processing the cowhide, which is highly energy- and water-intensive.

Initially, these vegan materials will be used for interior touchpoints such as steering wheels, with BMW confident that it meets high wear resistance and durability demands while retaining a premium look and feel. The only difference in appearance will be a new grain texture.

“With a steering wheel made from a high-quality vegan surface material, we are fulfilling the wishes of our customers who do not want to make any compromises in terms of look, feel and functionality.

“The innovative material withstands wear and tear caused by abrasion, perspiration and moisture and has all the desirable properties of leather,” says Uwe Köhler, Head of Development Body, Exterior Trim, Interior at the BMW Group.”

Markets like America, China and Europe are expected to lead the initial take-up of these vegan interiors. It will be interesting to see how the South African public, still somewhat irked by the introduction of BMW’s subscription service, reacts.

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