• Aug 7th 2009 at 5:59PM
  • 25
2009 Audi TTS – Click above for a high-res image gallery

Apparently there's a shortage of high-quality cowhides in the world. And according to Audi, it's becoming so difficult to locate good hides the German automaker has been forced to switch from cows to bulls for all 36,000 models it sells per year equipped with genuine leather interiors in the United Kingdom. We suspect the same is true of all leather-equipped Audis in the rest of the world.

It seems that Audi's "obsession for attention to detail" is so rigorous that it created a Nose Team way back in 1985 to sniff all 500 or so bits that go into its interiors to be sure that nothing is overly noxious. The six-member Audi Nose Team is reportedly prohibited from wearing any scents to work, including perfume, shower gel or aftershave and is not allowed to eat garlic. No, we're serious. Check the press release after the break.

Photos Copyright ©2009 Jonathon R. Ramsey / Weblogs, Inc.



Ultimate Hide Quality for the 'Vorsprung durch Technik' Brand

Making a prestige German car calls for an obsession for attention to detail with Audi now only selecting leather from bulls rather than cows to achieve the required upholstery standards for the 36,000 premium cars it will sell in the UK this year equipped with leather seats.

As many as 40 per cent of UK Audi customers specify real leather thanks to the company's very high quality interiors achieved with soft and supple leather sourced only from bulls. Hides from cows are too small and less homogenous and do not meet their stringent quality standards.

The very high standards required for its customers start from when Audi selects its materials. Each hide destined for an Audi is divided into three quality zones. The best piece is the back area (croupon) where the grain is particularly even with cracks or scars due to injuries rare. Audi discards the outermost region of each hide again for quality control reasons.

The very high grade leather from the core of the bull's back is used in all areas of a car seat where fine, smooth appearance and high robustness are most important – on the headrest, in the shoulder area, in the important lower seat squab area and on the side bolsters and seatbacks on the entry side.

The scent detectives – the Audi Nose Team
What is more, the legendary Audi attention to detail also ensures that the hides actually smell nice once installed. Audi's remarkable Nose Team was formed in 1985 to combat potentially offensive aromas inside its cars. The six-member Nose Team cuts small pieces out of the materials to be tested – for example wood inlays and the leather upholstery used for the seats.

Leather specimens are each placed in a standard canning jar equipped with an odourless gasket. An oven heats the sealed jar to 80 degrees Celsius for two hours. Each tester briefly sniffs the contents of the jar, reseals it and passes it to his or her colleague. Each team member writes down their grade in secret.

The Audi Nose Team also examines complete components such as dashboards and also a car in its entirety. The "professional sniffers", who analyse approximately 500 different components from the passenger compartment for each model, are chosen by virtue of their particularly sensitive noses.

Smoking is prohibited for these valued experts, while a cold, for example, can stop a team member from working. These experts also must not give off any scents of their own during testing – whether it be perfume, shower gel, after shave or maybe even garlic.

45 Leather Tests
In a pioneering move for the World's car industry, Audi stopped using chromium salts for tanning hides as long as 15 years ago. The multiple stage leather tanning process is followed by 45 tests to determine the durability of the leather. Samples are mounted in automatic fixtures, which show that they expand evenly, where they begin to tear, when they begin to develop wrinkles and how resistant they are to abrasion and fire.

Audi is celebrating its centenary this year with the 'Vorsprung durch Technik' brand recording a century of fitting real leather into its cars. Times have changed, technology has advanced, but the basic raw materials remain the same as they were as long ago as 1909 when the first Audi was produced

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      That interior shot is awesome. I think I need to make a visit...
      • 6 Years Ago
      Good riddance. goddamn cows.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "Oh, George, Not the livestock!"
      • 6 Years Ago
      How about velvet? I would drape myself in velvet if it were socially acceptable.
      • 6 Years Ago
      How about working on ergonomics next, like not sticking the HVAC controls in a hold behind the shifter.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Aren't they typically adjusted while the vehicle is running, i.e, being driven? Unless one is excessively idling in Park, their placement shouldn't be an issue - especially in a TTS. Just drive it!
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'd love ALCANTARA/ Fabric mix..........it's just awesome.

      Leather sucks, no more for me, and besides, how many tens of millions of cows have died just so that their skins can go into cars? It's f-ing disgusting when you think about it.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Nick is rite, as a vegan i am pretty pissed that Audi isn`t offering full alcantara or fake leather interior in the config. as a standard, even Mercedes does offer fake leather as a standard and it sells and i don`t think all of its buyers are veggies.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "Leather sucks, no more for me, and besides, how many tens of millions of cows have died just so that their skins can go into cars? It's f-ing disgusting when you think about it."

        I hope you're vegetarian/vegan, then. Else your comment makes no sense. It's not like they're flaying cows for leather and discarding everything else.
      • 6 Years Ago
      To be honest I love a good cloth seat better.
      In Michigan, leather sucks, hot in the summer and very cold in the winter.
      And it really is not that comfortable.
      My buddy has an old Bonneville and I love getting in those seats in the winter, very comfortable.
      Not a real fan of Alcantara either.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It's such a shame that such nice-looking interiors are wasted on over-priced, unreliable vehicles.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Leather is hot in the summer, cold in the winter and smells like a tannery
        • 6 Years Ago
        Exactly. When I ordered my 1-series I wanted the euro seat option with fabric seating surfaces and leather side bolsters. So much better in hot/cold climates. But no, BMW NA has this weird "luxury brands only have leather interiors" thing on the brain. The only other option is vinyl, oh sorry, leatherette.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yea, I have 335i and would have prefered fabric. If they want to charge a premium, maybe they could come up with some “technical fabric” they is cooler or something.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I never said I was a vegan, I do eat meat, but in small amounts........and not every day.

      Why? Meat is generally unhealthy, humans were not meant to consume meat every day like they do out here, it's gross. As a matter of fact, vegetarians who also practice sport live a staggering 7 years longer than meat lovers.

      7 years. That's a lot
      • 6 Years Ago
      I like leather because it's easier to clean than cloth (cloth stains too easily). Synthetic materials are fine with me, I guess. I never really thought of it much like you guys! LOL VERY interesting points you all make.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have an 09 TT with the leather/alcantara and it's a great mix of 'luxurious' leather and practical alcantara. The rest of the cabin is made of great materials, and the interior is entirely driver-focused, but in all black it's a bit boring.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I personally enjoy leather. The Lounge Leather in the MINI is real soft and nice, and very durable if you keep up with it. However, most people don't, and it just becomes crunchy and horrific.

      Ultra-Luxury cars should come with leather, but sporting cars like M3s, Porsches, etc, should at least have a cloth seat as an option, even if the price remains the same. Cloth is a must for track days.
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