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Katzkin Classes Up Mopar and More

A sexy alternative to factory leather.

by on Feb.17, 2012

Katzkin Chief Designer Dave O'Connell's sketch for a customized Fiat 500 interior.

When the limited-edition Mopar 12 300 sedan rolls into showrooms later this year it will notably not feature the standard leather interior found on the Chrysler 300S 4-door it’s based on.  Instead, the customized Chrysler sedan will use a striking and unique interior specifically designed for it by Katzkin Leather Inc.

Founded in 1983 by the eponymous team of Mitch and Lesley Katz, the fast-growing firm initially provided leather seats and surfaces for use in custom cars and in the concept vehicles popular at auto shows.  But more recently, the firm has upgraded its line-up, partnering with both individual dealers and even some original equipment makers, like Chrysler, to offer a range of custom interiors direct to consumers.

Insight!

Katzkin has even hired a design director, Dave O’Connell, who used to work with makers Mitsubishi and Peugeot, to help jazz things up with custom designs that might appeal to those who want something more distinctive than the usual factory offerings.

“We’ve had a very strong partnership with Katzin for a number of years,” said Jim Sassorossi, director of product development at Chrysler’s in-house service and aftermarket unit, Mopar.  “The quality of their product is just fantastic.

Katzkin's interior for the Mopar concept Dodge Dart Tribute, which debuted in Chicago.

Hoping to expand its traditionally low profile, Mopar has introduced a series of customized variants in recent years, including the Mopar 12 300 (which followed the Mopar 11 Challenger in 2011) that was introduced at the Chicago Auto Show earlier this month.  The Chrysler subsidiary also introduced several concept vehicles that can be recreated by customers using Mopar parts – and Katzkin interiors.

Chrysler has formed one of the more substantial alliances with the supplier.  Most Chrysler dealers now can order a Katzkin interior, rather than Chrysler factory leather, and have it arrive at the showroom already installed.

Other dealers in the Katzkin network will place the order, wait for the customized leather pieces to show up and then complete the installation in the service bay, a process Katzkin CEO Brooks Mayberry says is likely to take only a couple of days after a customer places an order.

The interiors are produced using the latest digital cutting tools at Katzkin’s factory in Montebello, California which has, over the years grown to employ over 450 people.

The firm already has the basic blueprints for the interiors of more than 2,000 different models and is adding several more each week, according to Mayberry.  That includes a number of older models, Katzkin giving a used car buyer the ability to retrofit the vehicle with leather seating, something it promotes through a relationship with Car Max, one of the nation’s largest vendors of “previously owned” vehicles.

Katzkin offers three distinct packages for each vehicle, starting with the Premium level, essentially matching factory spec.  The Limited level offers better designs and more colors, with Custom taking things up to what does, indeed, appear to be a specially customized interior design.

Business is booming for the firm, thanks to the ongoing desire to upgrade automotive interiors.  Today, nearly one in three U.S. new car buyers will choose will choose leather, about double what it was in the mid-1990s, according to marketing chief David Giddings.

“Most people want leather,” he says, noting surveys that show 80% of potential buyers would opt for the premium material if they could afford it.

To remain successful, design chief O’Connell has to stay up on fashion trends – which may take him to runways in places like New York, Paris and Milan.

One of the more notable changes has been a shift to softer leather, with customers demanding more colors than before.  That’s a definite plus for Katzkin, as even high-line carmakers typically limit their choices to a handful of hues.

“Automakers spend so much time developing their interiors and yet when you get into most cars all they offer is grey or beige, laughs Brooks.

The maker recently launched a new website, (Click Here to check it out) where you can examine its various products, locate dealers and then place an order.

Most packages run in the $1,800 to $2,400 range, notes Giddings – and many Katzkin retails offer additional discounts.

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