Sennheiser uses it for its Momentum headphones, Samsung offers phone covers made with the stuff, and you can even find it on Microsoft’s Signature Type Cover. More importantly, it is a material that you’ll find in a good number of cars from companies like Lexus, Ferrari, Porsche and many more.

We are of course referring to Alcantara, the synthetic suede-like material that comes from a single Italian company, also called Alcantara founded in 1972. The material has grown in popularity over the years, where its use in the auto industry grew yearly by 15% in 2009 to a massive 35% spike in 2015. This surge in demand coupled to limited production capacity have forced the company to miss out on contracts, as reported by Motor Trend.

Compared to leather, Alcantara is softer to the touch and can be finished in a number of bold colours. It also offers a high coefficient of friction to provide better grip; hence why it is used for seats and steering wheels. Furthermore, it is light for its durability – a whole car interior covered with the material can be up to 50% lighter compared to leather.

In a year, the company can reportedly make just eight million metres of Alcantara, with Europe accounting for 60% of global sales, followed by Asia Pacific and emerging markets with 30%, and the United States with 10%.

According to the Alcantara CEO Andrea Boragno, the company turned away as much as 20% new business as its Milan plant is currently running at full capacity. However, it has invested 300 million euros (about RM1.4 billion) to double the plant’s capacity – 16 million metres annually by the end of 2023 – and increase its workforce to meet the demand.

While most automakers are supplied by Alcantara, others prefer to acquire the lighter-than-leather material from other companies. Mercedes-Benz for instance, sources a similar material from Italian company Dinamica.