Leather trim won't be offered on future Minis, according to design boss Oliver Heilmer.
It’s part of a raft of changes that Mini is looking at as it moves towards the next generation of cars. Responsibility forms a key part of the strategy, along with three other values: curiosity, heartbeat and daredevil.
Last year, 54% of new Minis ordered in the UK featured real leather. According to Heilmer, the lack of leather is a key consideration in making Minis as sustainable as possible.
“We don’t need leather any more in the future, because we don’t believe it’s sustainable," he said. "We're totally convinced that we will have modern and high-value products without leather.”
An absence of hide isn’t the only area that Mini has been working on.
Heilmer told Autocar: “The fabric in the production seats is now 100% recycled. The lining underneath is 70% recycled. We're looking to create a timeless design. A one-season design, like fashion, isn't our aim with the design of future Minis.
“It’s inventive simplicity. Materials will be recycled, but they're luxurious at the same time. And inventive in terms of function. For instance, we used cork in the Urbanaut [concept]. The aesthetics will be coming more from a home perspective, rather than an automotive one.”
Despite this forward-looking agenda, Heilmer will continue to study Mini in relation to its heritage. The proportions are one of the most important aspects for him - “creating the smallest footprint for each of our products is a driver” - as well as the little design elements that make a Mini the Mini.
He explained: “We ask questions like 'is there still a toggle switch in the future?' because you love to use it. We need to do the basics right but then add the magical Mini touch over that.”
Heilmer is convinced that a Mini “should be fun as well". He said: "It’s not pure driving performance that we’re talking about, but it’s the ease of use, the ease of driving, that I believe will last.”
Hot John Cooper Works versions of Mini models will remain part of the line-up and, as a self-confessed petrolhead, Heilmer is keen that these retain their focused handling characteristics.
He said: “I personally believe that there will still be an emotional connection that we have to keep for our hardcore fans in order to have those John Cooper Works pinnacle products that are purely for driving pleasure.”