Alcantara maker can't keep up with demand

Alcantara, the company that makes the suede-like material of the same name, has increasingly turned away new business as it struggles to meet demand. In fact, demand for the material in automobiles has surged 15 percent over the last seven years.

The company simply can’t make enough of the material, Motor Trend reported last Friday, but it’s not just the auto industry that craves Alcantara—the technology sector and even the yacht industry have also boarded the bandwagon. With the shortage, Alcantara CEO Andrea Boragno said he’s turned away 20 percent of new business because the company can only make about 8.75 million yards of the material per year.

Alcantara, a synthetic material made from polyurethane, polyester, and microfibers, has become an increasingly popular choice for car interiors for many reasons. Foremost, the material has a pleasing touch, but it also remains warm in cold weather and cools down in hotter temperatures. Alcantara can also customize its material with greater ease for automakers than natural leather. It’s mostly used on seats and headliners, but also finds its way onto steering wheels, gearshifts, dashboards, and door panels.

If those aren’t enough pros, the material weighs much less than leather—about 50 percent less. Boragno said Lamborghini was able to shave 11 pounds from an unspecified car with the material.

Alcantara is really beginning to take off in the United States, but it’s incredibly popular abroad. The Italy-based company said Europe accounts for 60 percent of its global sales. Asia accounts for 30 percent, while the U.S. rounds out the final 10 percent.

Boragno won’t continue to turn away business in the future, though. He announced a $ 368 million investment to double Alcantara production over the next five years. It looks like soon we’ll all be in a for a little less leather in our cars in the name of more expressive design.

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