Premium automotive textile supplier Alcantara feels its strategy of “transparency” over its products’ ecological sustainability credentials has been vindicated in its court victory over a rival.
An Italian court has upheld eight separate claims that Miko, the latest competitor in the field of supplying synthetic materials for premium car brands, has made marketing statements for its product, Dinamica, that are shown to be unsubstantiated.
Chief among the product’s marketing claims had been that its materials are 100% recyclable, a claim Alcantara says is currently impossible and formed an unfair competitive advantage if believed by consumers and automakers.
The court agreed Miko’s advertising was wrong to suggest Dinamica was “the first and only microfiber that guarantees eco-sustainability throughout the production cycle.”
Both manufacturers make premium plastics-based materials for use as an alternative for leather in both seats and car interior trim.
Alcantara, drawing on roots from the 1970s, has long provided suede-like materials used in premium sports car brands including Audi, Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Maserati among others.
Miko’s Dinamica is a comparatively new kid on the block having begun production of its synthetic fiber materials in 1997, yet it has built inroads into the car interior market supplying premium models for both Land Rover and Volkswagen.
Now the court has ruled Miko must amend its sales pitch on sustainability or face hefty fines under Italian competition law.
Alcantara CEO Andrea Boragno says his company had been forced into a position where it had to act. “We decided to take this action because we saw no other way to stop the other company from behaving in this way,” he tells WardsAuto.
Boragno says his company has monitored its product’s sustainability credentials with an annual Sustainability Report, published since 2009. “We have a tradition of a very transparent approach to the issue of sustainability,” he says. “Every time we say something, we make sure that we can prove what we say.”
Some environmentalists may argue that even the well-establish Alcantara brand is still a plastic product produced using polyester and polyurethane, so what are its ‘green’ credentials?
“The polyester amount used is around 70% and we are working on polyester recycled from post-industrial use, such as from bottles. It’s also important for us to be able to say this polyester is traceable,” Boragno says.
“This is key because, through a laboratory, you cannot prove that the polyester is recycled so you have to give it traceability or certification.”
Microplastics finding their way into the environment is one of the latest ecological headaches for many as scientists discover them now present in our food chain especially from marine fish. How does the Alcantara product rate in its resistance to breaking down?
Carlo Ammirati, Alcantara’s director of sustainability, says the company is well aware of this issue and the product’s specific construction and use help mitigate the risks of shedding microplastics.
“In the normal use or application of our product it does not need a washing process,” Ammirati tells WardsAuto. “Microplastics are generated much more through the washing of the materials. So, if you consider the car interior or upholstery, in most cases there are usually no necessity to wash the products because they are very easy to clean and remove stains.
“However, we have also made an internal study and have evaluated that even in a washing process the release of microplastic is under the average for textile products.”
Ammirati says this is achieved because the product is made using long fibers that are much more robust and resistant to disintegrating compared to textiles using short length fibers.
“In many textile processes it is common to use fibers shorter than 5 mm which can break off as microplastic. Our fiber length is 51 mm,” he says.