Right now, car buyers may only find suede or suede alternatives in premium luxury vehicles and high-end sports sedans and coupes. But, by 2031, the global high-end synthetic suede market will hit $2.06 billion, increasing nearly $750 million from 2021’s figure of $1.22 billion. It’s an important trend that automotive manufacturers are riding. The problem facing car designers, materials engineers, and buyers? A visual and tactile luxury, suede, any way you cut it – synthetic or natural – comes at a cost.
As automakers design for macro trends including sustainability and electrification, they must also tackle consumers’ growing desire for premium details like panoramic roofs with roller shades and suede-like materials in mid-tier models. These developments mean car designers and materials engineers must find alternative luxury materials at competitive pricing to meet mid-tier budgets.
Enter synthetic suede. While synthetic suede offers many features, including durability and being easier to care for than real leather suede, not every synthetic is created equal and finding the right alternative is essential.
The Synthetic Suede Choices
Fifteen to twenty years ago, car manufacturers typically made headliners out of synthetic nonwovens. Today, polyester-based knit fabrics are the trend. In five to ten years, a similar shift is expected for synthetic suede as new development processes enable synthetic suedes to have the same premium characteristics of traditional suede at a reduced cost.
Automotive designers and materials engineers have choices for synthetic suede, from popular options to new market entrants, however, it’s not as simple as just choosing a suede alternative. There are substantial differences to keep in mind, and not all suede alternatives are evenly matched.
Most synthetic suede today is a highly processed polyester (or polyester and polyurethane) microfiber non-woven product impregnated with glues as a binder. Depending on the manufacturing process and the specification, they can range from highly durable and decorative, to less durable and poor imitations of suede.
The Neoluxe™ Difference
Neoluxe™ is a premium synthetic suede alternative to urethane impregnated non-woven microfiber synthetic suede, produced through a known, proven, and sustainable knit process within the automotive industry. The fabric delivers the luxurious look and feel of suede while providing the consistency and trimmability of a knit fabric. As consumers increasingly seek out luxury-level features, Neoluxe™ delivers automakers a premium, sustainable fabric to elevate any vehicle in their lineup. Compared to many market-leading synthetic suedes, Neoluxe™ can be effortlessly enhanced through custom embossing, welding, embroidering, and printing techniques. It uses micro-denier, multifilament yarn, with a high thread count. This higher number of filaments is what delivers the look and feel of traditional suede and the consistency and trimmability of a knit fabric.
Neoluxe™ has superior molding performance and tunable elongation properties compared to other synthetic suedes. These advanced characteristics allow automakers to work the fabric into a wider variety of interior components than nonwoven synthetic suedes. In addition to headliner applications, Neoluxe™ fabric can be engineered with depth, texture, and visual design for a multitude of other automotive interior surfaces including seating, pillars, sun visors, sun and roller shades, doors, dashboards and more. Neoluxe™ fabrics achieve all this while being eco-friendly, with a reduced environmental impact compared to other premium suedes due to the careful selection of raw materials and lower-intensity processing technologies. Another competitive advantage: it’s easily adapted to modern tools and uses a standard warp knit machine which allows a manufacturer to easily move back and forth using the same set of tooling for several trim levels. If you’re hoping to add Neoluxe™ to your automotive lines, look for a fabric partner with warp knitting capabilities.
The Design of Looking Forward
Neoluxe™, with its process adaptability, great customization characteristics, and superior molding performance and tunable elongation properties make it a compelling inclusion in future automotive interior designs. With a better and more homogeneous quality than other premium synthetic suedes, Nelouxe™ fabrics are a more attractive choice for a myriad of automotive interior component possibilities. As automakers look forward and determine how to incorporate new fabrics into different design projects, this new option can help them meet requirements as consumers increasingly focus on luxury design in the years to come.