The global automotive upholstery market is expected to be $7.75 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of just over 6.5%. As demand for automotive upholstery increases, so does the need for advanced technologies to operate and add comfort to seats, as well as an emphasis on lightweight materials to improve fuel economy.
The leading countries where upholstery manufacturers operate are China, the U.S., Japan and, surprisingly, Ireland. On second thought, Ireland makes sense because of its low (12.5%) corporate tax rate and many tax breaks, compared to a 21% rate in the U.S., a nearly 31% rate in Japan and a 15%-25% rate in China.
In this age of increased creature comforts, feel has become arguably more important than ever to buyers as people spend more time commuting on ever-more-crowded roads. That’s why, today more than ever, customers can choose from a wide selection of seat covers that are standard when purchasing a vehicle. What’s more, numerous options are available in the aftermarket.
With ergonomics becoming increasingly important in the development of vehicle interiors, perforated seat covers are being used more than ever to improve breathability and reduce driver fatigue, many consumers are opting for that choice. As sensors monitoring a driver’s biometrics become more common, ventilated seats will become even more popular than they are now.
What’s more, from a design perspective, the appearance of perforated covers gives upholstery a more stylish look than smooth surfaces. Put another way, the days of smooth vinyl or cloth upholstery in your grandfather’s Cadillac are a memory from the distant past.
When it comes to synthetic leather vs. the genuine article, synthetic offers a number of advantages. Apart from being less expensive, it’s lightweight and easily washable. Furthermore, real leather that’s processed for automotive interiors emits toxic waste during the manufacturing process, and that’s hazardous to the environment.
In contrast, synthetic leather is made of polyurethane and poly-vinyl chloride (PVC) that are less harmful to the environment and can be recycled at the end of a vehicle’s useful life. The same is true of plastics, thermoplastic polymers and synthetic leather.
If a vehicle is used for loading heavy items, or to transport kids or pets, and kept outdoors instead of in a garage, some type of synthetic leather is preferable to the real thing because it’s easier and less expensive to repair.
If not for the fluctuating prices of raw materials, including crude oil, demand for automotive upholstery could be even greater than it already is.
Regardless of market dynamics, there should be plenty of choices for upholstery manufacturers to give the car-buying public into the foreseeable future. It’s remarkable how a motor vehicle feature that was a secondary consideration at best has now become a significant selling point for many people buying new or used vehicles.
What are your thoughts on the future of the automotive upholstery market?
How do the look and feel of today’s automotive upholstery compare to what you sat on while driving, or as a passenger, 10 years ago? 20 years ago?
Additionally, is there anything you believe that manufacturers can do to make the product more comfortable? Easier to maintain?