TO THE EDITOR:
The subject of leather interiors has come up several times recently in Automotive News, including in the letter "Using leather is the responsible choice" (Aug. 16). It's also the lucrative choice. In the late 1980s, I was a Dodge marketing manager and discovered that while Dodge Ram pickup sales were just a fraction of the Ford F-150's and Chevy Silverado's, the more ours cost, the faster they sold. That is, the more highly optioned they were, the better. Further, the two fastest-selling colors were Charcoal Grey metallic and Midnight Blue, not barn red or white.
I proposed adding an upscale edition to the full-size pickup line. My first proposal was to add a leather interior option. It was rejected because it was deemed too luxurious for a work truck and not "macho" enough. I said, "Cowboys don't ride on cloth saddles," to no avail.
However, by the mid-'90s, when the "big-rig" image Ram (an image I had also proposed earlier) became a reality, the race to produce stylish, upscale pickups began with a vengeance. Leather interiors were key to the image change.
Not just seats, but steering wheels, instrument panel padding, door trim, consoles — you name it — began to appear, some plush enough to rival those of Bentley.
It was a race to the top that hasn't abated; Ram sales are almost 10 times greater than in the beginning. For all Detroit full-size pickups, leather has been an indispensable contributor to increased sales — with exponential profit-per-vehicle increases. Leather is lucrative.
BOB MARCKS, Scottsdale, Ariz. The writer is a former Ford and Lincoln stylist and retired Chrysler designer and product planning and marketing manager.