Fine vehicles have fine interiors and many believe there is no finer material than leather. We want to explain that the luxurious feel and smell of fine leather in a new Land Rover is not a matter of chance, though. There are no “standard leathers” for the engineers at Land Rover to choose from. Leather is a highly-engineered product and is custom designed for each customer. Want to learn more?
The first “fabric”
Leather processing goes back, of course, tens of thousands of years. Because animals were a major food source and commonly hunted, early man quickly realized that animal skins or pelts were an ideal material to make clothing out of. Unfortunately, early man also discovered that animal skins didn’t last very long. At some point, though, some clever group discovered that when skins and pelts were soaked in water with the essence of certain plants, they became softer and imprevious to degradation.
Fast forward to the 18th century and leather processing has become a quite complex process. It starts with fleshed hides soaked in brine being delivered to leather processing tanneries. The first step within the tannery is to neutralize the hides with acid and treat them with special enzymes to increase softness. The next operation, pickling, is when the hides are soaked in a solution of water, salt and sulfuric acid to “fix” the hides. The last step is the actual tanning process. There are several dozen methods of tanning but the most common is chrome tanning; this is when the hides are rotated in huge drums in a bath containing trivalent chrome. for some 8 hours.
The real custom part of the process are the finishing steps. This is when a series of coatings are applied to the surface of the leather. These coatings are often plastics such as acrylic and urethane resins or natural materials such as wax, or nitrocellulose. Finally, to make the surface of the leather look good, leather is often embossed with a pattern.
So to circle back to our opening concept, if you enjoy the quality of the leather in your Land Rover, it is because a specific technical group working closely with the leather supplier has defined all the characteristics of the finished leather that they want. The characteristic of the final product is just as highly engineered as any other component of the vehicle. So the “luxurious feel and smell of fine leather” we mentioned before are due to fine engineering and product selection.
The last step, of course, is upholstery. After the leather sheets are finished, they are shipped to upholstery companies that use the leather to construct automotive seats and other leather-covered interior pieces.