It was February 2021 when Oliver Heilmer, Mini‘s head of design, announced in the columns of Autocar a leather-free future for his brand. Heilmer’s words, as one might expect, caused some astonishment and debate. Because the manager associated the decision to abandon leather with its (entirely alleged) “non-sustainability”. And even ICT, the body representing the tanning industry on a global scale, intervened to explain that Mini’s move, put in terms of sustainability, had no scientific basis. It was, after all, a delicate period. There seemed to be a haemorrhage in the four-wheel sector: within a few months, BMW and Volvo had also announced their vegan turn. Back to today. 27 months have passed since February 2021. And Mini still uses leather.
Certain media dynamics
Let’s be clear: we are pleased that Mini offers customers soft nappa leather for the seats and steering wheel in its interior packages. Or that in the description of premium offerings it boasts the use of “the finest full-grain leather”. We hope it does this for a long time, perhaps forever. With hindsight, however, we have some misgivings about such a sharp-like interview in 2021. Because, from an industrial point of view, it was clearly premature.
While perhaps the assertive tones served more to appear in the press review in a winking way for the veg audience, than to really explain the brand’s strategies. On the other hand, we have already observed the curious parabola of Polestar, a brand of the Volvo group, which, in the space of a few years, went from a radically animal-free approach to a “vegan first” one, but in stable partnership with the Bridge of Weir tannery. We are led to believe, in short, that a certain animalism is purely cosmetic: leather-free in the newspapers, leather at the dealership.
Photos of leather upholstery by Mini