Upscale interior materials provider Alcantara is enjoying rapid growth of turnover as it reports higher demand for its artificially created 'suede effect' material from premium automakers. Alcantara's material is typically used in automotive seats, headliners and steering wheel covers. Alcantara is a polymer manufactured in a spinning process from polyester and polyurethane. Customers for the material include Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, BMW, Bugatti, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, McLaren and Porsche.

Speaking to just-auto in London this week, Alcantara CEO Andrea Boragno said that the Milan-based company's products are in high demand from premium automakers. "The unique aesthetic, technical and sensory qualities of Alcantara are increasingly valued by manufacturers of premium cars around the globe," he said. "The automotive industry goes after lifestyle," he added. "We provide a material which is beautiful, but also associated with a contemporary and cool lifestyle. And it is beautifully tactile." The company is also growing applications for its material in consumer electronics, apparel and soft furnishings, but automotive business accounts for 75% of the 570-employee business's turnover.

"We are very, very profitable," Boragno maintains. "This year [financial year ended March 31] we will have revenue of around EUR165m, with an operating profit of around EUR40m; our operating profit has increased five-fold in six years."

Boragno maintains that among the Alcantara material's benefits are that it is 40-50% lighter than leather. "It is manufactured," he adds. "That also means it is very much easier for our customers to work with than leather which is also a highly variable material. We can produce rows of the material to exact dimensions and specifications; you cannot do that with leather, by its nature. And Alcantara is very versatile – it can be presented in many different ways for the customer, for the application and preferred design. There are also other advantages, it is breathable also. And there is much less waste with Alcantara than with leather. There is less labour required, the overall cost is lower."

Boragno is also very proud of the company's carbon neutral operating status. "We have done a lot to get to this status and invested in a very efficient and sustainable production process and looked at all aspects of our activities to gain certification as carbon neutral. Many other manufacturing companies talk of progress to reduce their carbon footprint with the aim of becoming carbon neutral one day in the future. We are already doing it."

He is also happy to continue to extend the company's business at the premium end of the automotive market. Could the company look to expand in volume segments? "No, we don't want to do this. Premium is very important for us and we are growing our business in the premium area of the market."