Trim and Package Hell: A Loan Dreary Cloth Upholstery World

The auto industry is amazing. It’s also incredibly annoying. I could rant for hours about how terrible most technology is in new cars, but I’m not going to do that right now. For one, I just ate a chocolate hazelnut beignet and don’t want to die of rage-induced heartburn. And secondly, I’m here to talk about another beef I have: options.

Options on a car are basically offered in two different ways: trims and packages. Which basically just means you can choose the “Touring” trim Mazda CX-5, and then have the option to add the “Touring Technology Package.” If you buy the “Grand Touring” trim, it’ll probably come with a “Technology Package” but then again, maybe not. This can get really complicated. It gets even worse when you start trying to configure a Porsche or Audi.

But the options beef I have today isn’t in regards to the horrible navigation system you paid hand over fist for. No, it’s something else.

If you’ve ever had cloth seats in a car, raise your hand, and then turn and punch a pillow from the rage you feel for having been subjected to such garbage. If you have had a combination of cloth + kids + dog, a pillow won’t do, so go invest in a boxing bag. It’s basically hell. Surely, with all the terrible drawbacks of cloth upholstered seats in a car, there must be some better material. You know, something that is durable and can last for years, looks good, feels good, and allows you to just wipe away a spill. We’ve invented the internet, landed a rover on Mars, and done facial transplants — surely we can figure out a better materi….wait, what’s that you say? Leather? Leather is a good seating material? Wow, that sounds awesome. I love my leather shoes, belt, wallet, so I bet I’d love a leather interior in my car.

So if leather is so great, why do so many cars not have leather interiors? Remember when I was talking about trims up above? Yeah, that’s the curse word. Trims. Say it too many times and your wise grandma may wash your mouth out with soap. So back to the Mazda CX-5 example. The car’s starting price is $21,795 for the sport model. And unless you are Kim K or Clayton Kershaw, $22K is a lot of money. But here’s where it gets ludicrous.

If you want to get leather in your SUV — you know, the vehicle you are buying to transport your sippy-cup-throwing toddler. The off road vehicle you let your wet dog jump into after a day at the lake. The one you climb into after a day of hiking — it’s going to cost you. You’ll have to spend AT LEAST $28,570 to get leather. That’s an increase of $6775, or roughly 30% of the total cost of the base model.

That’s insane.

We bought a new sofa a few years ago at Ikea. The sofa, like the Mazda, are offered with cloth or leather upholstery. And you know what the cost difference was? $300. In other words: poco dinero. But Mazda, for some reason, thinks that you only want leather if you also want heated seats, navigation, sun roof, keyless entry, lane assist, and 250 other options that come on the top-of-the-line model. Or maybe they think that if you ONLY spend $22K for a car, you are a pathetic person that doesn’t deserve leather (personal note: you aren’t. You are probably smart and industrious). Or, and (HINT: this is the reason), they know cloth sucks, they know you want leather, and they only offer it on the top trim in hopes of convincing you to spend 30% more on your car in order to get something that should come standard. Yes, it’s a scheme. It’s cunning. And I hate it.

I’ve used Mazda as an example here but every auto manufacturer that isn’t a luxury automaker is guilty of “leather deprivation.” As far as I know, and please, correct me if I’m wrong, not a single company out there let’s you simply “add leather” for $300-$600 to whichever trim or model you choose.

Which is actually one thing that makes shopping used luxury vehicles so great, and an often times smart alternative to buying a more affordable car new. You don’t have to scour the fine print to know whether a Lexus or Audi has leather, it’s standard baby.

So next time you drive away from the dealership in a car without leather, or your kid spills grape juice on your cloth seats, or the neighbor kid gets a bloody nose on the way home from a soccer game, remember, I’m here for you. Just reach out. I’ll let you vent until you’re blue in the face, and then I’ll offer you a hug. Because as much as this sucks, so long as we keep buying Hyundai, Honda, Toyota, Kia, Subaru, Mazda, Ford, Chevy, cloth seats are going to remain a cottony thorn in our butts.