DETROIT — Alcantara S.p.A., the maker of the upmarket leather alternative of the same name, says that new demand from U.S. and Chinese automakers continues to drive sales, and it now plans to double the company's overall production capacity in Italy.
The synthetic suede, which is also used in the fashion industry, has become increasingly popular as automakers spruce up interiors and shed weight.
Leading the way at Alcantara is CEO Andrea Boragno, 67, who spoke with Staff Reporter Jack Walsworth.
Q: What's your outlook for demand?
A: We have had very strong growth, especially in the last three years. The growth has been far higher than the most optimistic projections. So we had to resolve it by doubling our production capacity with an investment of €300 million ($358 million). This capacity will be available in the second quarter of 2019.
At the moment, our production capacity is saturated. It's as simple as that.
How are you handling the increased demand for Alcantara for luxury and exotic SUVs?
We say "Listen, for your group this year, this is the amount you have. You manage it."
Will we see more mass-market brands featuring it?
You have to consider that the price point is the price point.
Nevertheless, in midsize vehicles, there is quite a tendency to improve the quality of the interiors. So there's a tendency to use Alcantara even in medium-sized vehicles — and sometimes even in small vehicles to make more unique interiors. The use of Alcantara per car for a Peugeot is not the same as if you were in a Lamborghini. But still, you have Alcantara.
As vehicle interiors change, how do you handle the influx of new competitors to Alcantara?
We are adamant in keeping the values of our brand. And we're adamant in keeping ourselves different from anybody else. We want to be unique and first. This is how our stuff is. Unique and first. We don't follow them, we don't copy them. We go our own way.
How has the Alcantara material evolved?
Some performance has been improved. The colorfastness has improved. And a lot of customization has been done. There's special sewing, special perforation, special embossing and special painting.
As your business grows in the United States and China, will you need to shift to local production?
Not in the short term, I don't see this happening. Because we want it made in Italy. This is a big value and appreciated by our customers.