Are you into leather?

June 8, 2005
When you're as old as I am, (older than dirt, as TCC Editor Marty Padgett often reminds me), you like to reminisce about the old days. Fact is, there are some things I'd like to forget about, such as the hard vinyl bench seats of my first few cars. They were uncomfortable, unpleasant to the touch and just looked, well, nasty. These days, I couldn't imagine owning anything without leather. Apparently, I am not alone.

It's hard to find a luxury car these days that doesn't have cowskin lavished all over the interior. A rare exception is the Maserati GranSport I reviewed a few months back, with its lightweight, mesh-over-mesh BrighTex fabric. Sadly, the legendary Connolly Leather closed its doors a few years back, though you can actually get some remainders still at this website. Several worthy successors have stepped in. And a few less-than worthy. Seat supplier Lear lost a $30 million judgment recently involving breach of contract over leather seats.

According to Seton Corp., a major supplier, sales of cars with leather seats should near 4.5 million by 2007, up some 600 percent since the early 1990s. And we're not just talking luxury cars anymore. Overall, it's the interior of choice for 60 percent of Mustang buyers this year. And even on the F-Series, leather is chosen by 25 percent of customers. Ford also reports that 30 percent of so-called entry-midsize customers are going with leather, but 44 percent of owners report they'll order it on their next vehicle.

Ironically, if you attend a classic car show, such as Detroit's Meadowbrook Concours d'Elegance or the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, this summer, you may be in for a surprise. Check out some of the oldest chauffeured models and you're likely to find the driver sitting on leather, his passengers on fabric. Back then, leather was prized for its durability, but cloth was the upscale option of choice.

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