Volvo Cars Going Vegan and Eliminating Leather By 2030

by Jennifer Shea
John Keeble/Getty Images

Volvo is going vegan.

The Swedish carmaker announced today that its vehicles will be leather-free by 2030. It’s catering to its customer base with “vegan-friendly” products.

Instead of leather, Volvo will use bio-based and recycled materials. The company says the move reflects the shift toward sustainably sourced products that its customers want to see.

“We’ve got a new generation of customers coming through. They’re far more interested in the products they buy and having an ethical story behind them,” Volvo design chief Robin Page told Reuters. “They want to understand where the materials come from.”

Volvo Shifts Toward Vegan as It Moves Toward All-Electric Lineup

Customers are concerned about animal welfare issues in the leather industry, Volvo says. And the company claims they’re also troubled by the environmental impacts of cattle farming.

So the company is looking into materials like Nordico. That’s made from forestry byproducts, recycled corks and plastic bottles. Page said it offers the same “softness and warmth” as leather.

“For someone who loves leather but is aware of the negative effects of leather on the environment, this is a good, modern way to capture the properties but is the right material for the future,” Page said.

Moreover, Volvo plans to use recycled polyester to decrease its carbon footprint. It also wants to use linen made from flax plants grown in Sweden in between crops. (That restores the soil.) And the carmaker will also begin using flax fibers for door panels.

“Consumers are not just focused on the sustainability of the end product but also the material that goes into it, including the sourcing,” Volvo’s director of global sustainability, Stuart Templar, said.

But this move also fits with Volvo’s overall sustainable strategy. The company is aiming to roll out an all-electric car lineup by 2030. Meanwhile, Volvo’s electric C40 Recharge model is leather-free already.

Many Vehicles Use Animal Products

It is possible to buy cars without leather interiors. However, there is currently no such thing as a vegan car on the market, USA Today reports. Volvo is taking a step in that direction. But it’s not there yet.

Animal products go into the components of most vehicles. For example, rubber tires and steel are produced with animal fats. And that’s not even counting the cars with leather interiors.

“It takes from three to eight cowhides to line the interior of just one car,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk told USA Today. “PETA has been working for years to put vegan vehicles on the map, pushing and persuading brands such as Ford, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and Honda to embrace leather- and wool-free seats and steering wheels.”

Interestingly, Newkirk said she drives her own specially made vegan car. It’s not currently available to the public. But she urges automakers to mass-produce cars using sustainable materials. Vegan cars, she said, would not contribute to animal cruelty, the burning of the Amazon rainforest or climate change.

It may take a bit of an overhaul for automakers to switch to all-vegan cars. But in the meantime, Volvo is at least making a start toward that goal. And in the process, it’s giving environmentalists something to cheer about.