Friday, February 1, 2008

The not-so-smart car: Where veganism and environmentalism clash

I was so excited that the Smart ForTwo car was coming to the United States this year after being available for years in Europe. It is the most fuel-efficient nonhybrid on the market. Only the Toyota Prius gets better highway mileage (45 mpg to 41 mpg, according to the EPA's 2008 standard). Unfortunately, the ForTwo comes standard with a leather steering wheel and leather gear-shift knob. I e-mailed the company about it, and here was their response: "Dear smart Enthusiast, Thank you for your interest in smart USA. Unfortunately at this time leather is the only option available for the steering wheel." It makes me so disgusted. I am trying to be a good environmentalist and want to do the right thing, but I will not buy a car that's dressed up with the skin of another animal. The idea that you can't even special order a non-leather steering wheel and gear-shift knob is just amazing. I'm so glad a company is making a small, reasonably priced and fuel-efficient car. Unfortunately, there's too much cruelty in its make-up for my green.


  1. I figured as much. A Smart Dealer just opened here in NJ, and I was was just about to take one out for a test drive. I figured I would talk to them about the leather thing when I got there. Being Vegan for 15 years and eco for even longer, finding cars for my wife and me is always frustrating. There would be so many more options if they would knock it off with the leather shift knob and wheel. I have not found any dealers that were cool about swapping those parts out either (and I don't know how cool I am with that anyway.) Good mountain bikes (leather seats) and good martial arts/boxing equipment are the other 2 thorns in my side.

  2. I'm a vegetarian who just finished googling the Smart car and noticed the non-optional leather and therefore will not buy one. So they've lost three customers already.

    Mike in Canada

  3. HI, I just stumbled upon your blog. We are a vegan family in Austin. It is great to meet other Texas Vegans, there are not alot of us around. Have a great weekend.


  4. I've been waiting for the Smart ForTwo to come to the States since it's initial release in Europe (I used to be a big Swatch fan as a kid). As soon as the US car was confirmed, and the online builder was available I too emailed them about leather free options, and received the same email... bummer.

    Until Smart changes their options, and bring us a more fuel efficient model (ie diesel, cause the gasoline mpg isnt all that great), I will look at the Mini Cooper 37hwy / 28city mpg or even the S model 34/26, is more practical, more fun to drive and not too much more expensive the non-S model. I will also take a look at the 2008 Jettta TDi, more expensive (but not too expensive) and definitely bigger but better fuel efficiency then either the Mini or Smart.

  5. Same here. Looking for a new green car, looked at the fortwo, wanted one badly, saw the leather, won't buy it.

    Wise up Mercedes!