Leather is perfect for car sharing
The automotive industry is facing rigorous changes, as the way we use and perceive cars is rapidly changing. Ownership of products is, at large, decreasing as lease and rental programs take its place and answer market needs for a more liberal form of ownership or temporary use. Simply put, if you don’t need a car every day, why not rent one? Shared mobility brings new challenges for car interiors. Leather may provide an easily available answer.
Shared mobility is not an entirely new concept. Basically, it’s a matter of rethinking public transport, tailored to individual needs. Car sharing, as this is often called, took off in the United States in the early 2000s and has become a global phenomenon. According to Bloomberg, cities like Moscow and Tokyo already have a fleet of up to 20,000 sharable cars at the ready. In some countries the usage of shared cars has been integrated into the public transport system, providing consumers with an option in addition to trains and busses with the same convenience in access and payment.
High-performance interiors for continuous use
Where previously a car would remain unused for extended periods of time, shared vehicles are on the road around the clock. That is the more desired situation, of course, but this puts significantly more strain on the interiors, such as seats, paneling, and steering wheel. These require a surface material that can handle continuous usage, resist staining, soiling, and minor damages. At the same time, the material needs to have a pleasant look and touch, enhancing the user experience, and creating minimal friction for users. And let’s not forget the need for durability.
These are properties leather excels in. As a material, leather is both resilient and flexible, which perfectly fits the needs of shared mobility. Leather has, by itself, dirt and stain repellent and antibacterial qualities that can easily be enhanced with surface treatment and coatings. These enable operators to significantly speed up their maintenance and cleaning processes, which saves time and costs. This way, vehicles don’t spend extended periods of time off the road. The natural touch of leather offers a pleasant haptic experience and as a material, it is highly resistant and easy to restore. That means the life of a worn seat is far from over as upgrading and finishing can make the material ready for another run at life. As an eye-pleasing material choice, with endless aesthetic options, leather is the perfect match for a future of shared driving.
The durable choice for public transport and aviation
Mobility as an industry is more and more converging, as the needs for each mode of transport align. The need for sustainable materials, durability, and easy maintenance are shared amongst every mode of transport. Looking for automotive solutions in public transport and aviation is a sensible approach then. Seats in vehicles like airplanes, trains, and buses often have leather upholstery and with good reason. Sometimes, these seat covers even outlast the modes of transport themselves.
Electric driving and automated transport
Shared mobility is part of the mobility megatrend, which has freed us to move around and live, work and relax wherever we want. Developments that also affect this trend are electric and automated driving. Cars are becoming more silent, as alternatives to fossil fuels are more widely available. At the same time, self-driving vehicles are no longer a futuristic concept we see in science fiction movies. Prototypes and concept cars have in recent years been frequently showcased at automotive events, and semi-automated vehicles are already joining us on the road, causing legal grey areas and rethinking legislation. The impact this will have on how we perceive our cars is only in its earliest stages for now.
Transforming lives, transforming interiors
The usage of car interiors will in the near future be even more intense. Why not have meetings in your automated vehicle, watch a movie, take a nap, or catch a bite to eat? This will put more stringent requirements on the interiors, as versatile third living spaces. Leather’s durability and antibacterial qualities become even more useful, but also the tactile possibilities for smart surfaces and integrated electronics will enable clean, minimalist interiors, ready for any type of use. Buttons will be integrated into the surface material and devices will connect without contact. And though we may not see most become commonplace in the next 10 years, these changes are already affecting our vehicles and offering challenges for manufacturers in the design and material choices. One of the oldest materials used by us humans is up for each and every one of these future tasks.