One of the most hotly debated topics at Tesla’s recent shareholder meeting was the availability of non-animal-based interior materials.
Several investors at the meeting — including a representative from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) — asked the company’s board to adopt a greater variety of non-animal based materials and make vegan interiors more readily available.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk was receptive to the request from PETA and told the representative that he would look into it.
Several of the investors even mentioned that Tesla’s luxury competitors have offered artificial interior materials for years.
Business Insider decided to contact various manufacturers to see if that’s true.
But we also checked with Tesla to find out whether the company currently offers any non-leather options.
Customers looking to avoid leather can go with the Model S’s standard “Multi-Pattern Black Seats.” This option features synthetic cloth seats with faux-leather accents.
“The Model S comes standard with a leather steering wheel,” Tesla Spokesperson Khobi Brooklyn told us in an email. “For the occasional customer wanting a non-leather steering wheel, we can provide one. “
So the bottom line is that you can get a Tesla that doesn’t contain animal-based products, but it requires a special non-leather steering wheel.
This is actually the story throughout the luxury segment of the auto industry. The lack of an available non-leather steering wheel prevents a number of manufacturers from offering a truly vegan interior.
Although this may sound trivial, modern steering wheels — especially those installed on high-end luxury cars — are immensely complex and are packed with a slew of electronics. So installing a vegan-variant is not as simple as bolting on an aftermarket unit.
Here’s what several other automakers told us about the state of their non-leather offerings:
- Lexus: “Lexus does not currently have vegan car interiors available.”
- Audi: “While Audi prioritises the design of eco-conscious interiors, there is not currently a vegan interior offering from Audi.”
- Jaguar Land Rover: “At the moment, all Jaguar vehicles feature premium leather interiors.”
- Acura: “We do offer a leatherette on our base ILX, however, even if a dealer installed the animal-free seating surfaces, the steering wheel is leather (standard on all cars). So,we don’t really have a vegan option.”
- BMW: The company currently offers a non-leather interior option called SensaTec. The fabric is made from a blend of recycled materials and wool. Its colour comes from plant-based dye … SensaTec is available as an option on the 2, 3, 4, 5 Series, X1, X3, X5, Z4, and i3 models.”
- Infiniti: “The Q50 and Q70 are available with non-leather seating, however only leather steering wheels are available across the board.”
- Mercedes-Benz offers MBTex premium vinyl seats on some of its vehicles. We reached out to MB for further details, but have not heard back yet.
- We reached out to Porsche as well, but did not get a response.
It might be difficult for major automakers to make changes to the way they put together interiors, but with Tesla’s more modest production, it might be in a better position to provide some custom choices for vegans. And from Elon Musk’s reaction to the criticism at the investors meeting, there could be more non-leather options on the way.