There’s A Leather Seat Crisis In The World’s Auto Industry

Ferrari interior
This much leather requires a lot of cows. Joseph Pasaoa

Want leather seats in your new luxury car? Join the crowd.

Even non-luxury buyers have come to expect this amenity, according to Bloomberg.

But there’s a problem. Leather comes from cows — and the size of the U.S. herd is dropping to levels not seen since right after World War II.

Bloomberg’s Lydia Mulvany cited Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Kevin Tynan on the trend.

“You’re seeing luxury content moving down further into lower priced vehicles,” he said. “The buyer is getting more for their money right now, and it’s enabling buyers to stretch a little further and say, I can do a leather interior or a luxury car.”

That demand, plus a surging appetite for leather seats in China, is putting pressure on cattle-hide supplies at a very bad time. Bloomberg notes that 30% of all leather produced goes into auto interiors. Most of the rest goes to shoes.

Drought in the U.S. isn’t helping, and Bloomberg’s Mulvany reported that it could take quite some time for the country’s cattle herds to get out of the Eisenhower administration in terms of size.

One steer hide can be used to produce a single car seat, Bloomberg noted.

Leather seats are an obvious option when it comes to fulfilling expectations for luxury buyers.

Increasingly, they have become a way to improve customer impressions of more mass market models.