It’s time to rejoice.
Over the past couple of years, vegan leather products have appeared on the shelves of major retailers in the form of shoes, purses, and various accessory items. However, when it comes to vehicles, automobile manufacturers continue to reinforce the notion that an animal-based leather interior is the gold-standard of wealth. Luxury eco-car manufacturer Tesla Inc. has made significant strides in attempting to change that.
It all started in 2015 at the annual shareholder meeting. PETA, a Tesla shareholder, urged the company to offer vegan leather for its car interiors. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he would “absolutely” consider it, and in December 2016, Tesla made waves when they added a vegan leather option to the interiors of their vehicles. Tesla first introduced the vegan leather “ultra white” as a stock option for the utility vehicle Model X in January 2016. In February 2016—after the introduction of the vegan leather option—Musk publicly recommended the vegan leather option to a Twitter user. Recognizing a preference for a more sustainable option gave credence to the rarely acknowledged movement to transition away from animal-based fabrics in cars.
Fast forward to 2017.
In late July, Tesla removed all mention of leather from the website, and all upgraded interiors are now referred to with the premium designation which they applied to the original rollout of vegan seats made of a new synthetic material. Although Tesla has not formally announced the change, a spokesperson confirmed it, saying that the company now only sells its premium seating option, which is a non-animal seating material designed specifically for Tesla. According to PETA, “Cars still come with leather-wrapped steering wheels, but cruelty-free vegan options have been offered upon request in the past.”
Harnessing sustainable resources and energy has been one of the primary pillars of Tesla since its founding in 2003. The initial goal of the founding group of engineers in Silicon Valley was to dispel the myth that gasoline vehicles are superior to electric vehicles. The company launched the Roadster—the first highway-legal serial production all-electric car to use lithium-ion battery cells—in 2008, and in 2012, the company released the Model S, the world’s first all-electric luxury sedan.
Long term, Musk believes, “…we must at some point achieve a sustainable energy economy or we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilization will collapse. Given that we must get off fossil fuels anyway and that virtually all scientists agree that dramatically increasing atmospheric and oceanic carbon levels is insane, the faster we achieve sustainability, the better.”
Few CEOs use their fortune and influence to change the world as Elon Musk has. His efforts to push the auto-industry to more environmentally friendly practices have already started to take effect as other luxury car companies like BMW and Mercedes-Benz have begun offering vegan leather seating options, according to Anne Brainard, PETA’s Director of Corporate Affairs.
However, we still have a long way to go.
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