Cracked leather seats

The consumer’s issue:

“I noticed a cracking in the perforated leather seats in my car, and a hole formed in the material. I took the vehicle to my nearest manufacturer’s franchise dealer, and was told that the issue should be covered under warranty. However, the manufacturer concluded that an external influence had caused the crack by tearing the material.

I took the vehicle to another business for a second opinion, and an upholsterer told me that the seats were not in fact leather, but were covered with a manmade substance – a cheap vinyl that tore easily. I therefore deem this fabric to be unfit for purpose or of satisfactory quality, and the manufacturer has refused to repair it under the terms of the warranty.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • We have been looking into the consumer’s complaint regarding the damage to his seat.
  • The retailer has stated that the cause of the split was deemed an external influence, which the consumer is aware of.
  • Therefore, we will not cover the cost of the repair under the warranty agreement.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The Motor Ombudsman noted that, during the investigation of the case, the leasing agreement for the customer’s vehicle expired.
  • By law, the manufacturer is not accountable for the quality of the fabric used, or its suitability for its purpose.
  • The manufacturer is considered liable for the fair administration of their warranty or guarantee, which is that the vehicle will have been manufactured correctly and meets the same standard as any other from the production line.
  • The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator therefore concluded that, any argument that the material itself is substandard, which is the main concern of the consumer, is not actually one that our New Car Code, or the law could support.
  • To this end, the adjudicator considered the case based on the evidence that is available, i.e. a retailer who was of the opinion that the issue was not a warranty defect, and that they considered something external had somehow interacted with the material to cause the cracking and the subsequent dispute.
  • It was decided by The Motor Ombudsman that it was entirely plausible that the material could have been affected by an external influence, and that it could be insufficiently durable to have been able to withstand this.
  • The adjudicator also did not conclude that the issue should be covered by the terms of the warranty, and could therefore not request that the business reimburses the £222 that the customer incurred to repair the vehicle prior to the lease ending. Therefore, the consumer’s claim was not upheld.
  • Were the customer able to supply a professional opinion about the material used in the vehicle, they may have been able to form an argument under their consumer rights with the leasing company, which could have been subject to a case by the Financial Ombudsman Services. However, by going down this route, they would not be able to claim, at the same time, that the damage would be covered by the terms of the warranty.


  • The consumer had handed back the vehicle to the leasing agent, and as the consumer’s claim for the repair costs was not awarded, and they were unable to provide a professional opinion about the material, they accepted the adjudication outcome and the case was closed.