Volume 15 | Issue 2 | Year 2012

Katzkin Corporation’s new logo (which it introduced in 2010) succinctly expresses what the company does and how its products relate to a consumer’s wishes.
It includes three appropriate descriptors – “express, transform, drive.”

Katzkin enables consumers to upgrade their automobile interiors – particularly seating – from materials such as cloth to leather. Customization is a huge part of the process. Thus:

  • Express – upgrades are made to a customer’s design, which means self expression;
  • Transform – Katzkin transforms the automobile interior according to the customer’s personal vision;
  • Drive – This descriptor has a double-edged meaning: Customers drive away happy, and Katzkin’s considerable capabilities drive the company forward.

For nearly 30 years, the Montebello, Calif.-headquartered Katzkin has designed and installed transformations, and it has enjoyed a steadily rising trajectory of success. Today, its product line is comprehensive; the company constantly adds to its offerings. Currently, Katzkin boasts more than 2,000 different vehicle applications, for both cars and trucks. The company creates new interiors from the finest imported leathers. Further, creations are engineered to meet or exceed factory performance standards, Katzkin indicates.

“We make it easy for consumers to upgrade their vehicles, as we design and sell ready-to-install interiors,” describes Miles Hubbard, Katzkin’s director of trade marketing. “Consumers are our focus. We don’t sell to luxury automakers, as they already provide leather interiors. Our customers are those that want to upgrade. We create three to four new patterns every week, and we sell through a restyler network. Typically, a restyler is a small, after-market company that does leather interiors, sun roofs, window tint, and mobile electronics, among other interior elements.”

Hubbard describes how a typical transaction works: “A consumer sees a new vehicle on a lot and wants to have a leather interior. The auto dealer will then contact a restyler. Then, the restyler orders the interior from us. We ship the leather interior to the restyler, who installs it and then ships the vehicle back to the dealer. From there, it goes to the customer.”

This might sound like a complicated process, but after almost three decades, Katzkin has made it efficient. It has the necessary equipment and systems to receive, manufacture and ship a custom order in about 48 hours. Unlike standard aftermarket seat covers, each Katzkin interior is a replacement for factory covers.

FAMILY FOUNDED
The company’s roots date back to 1983, and its name involves a play on words. The business was started by Mitch Katz and his sister Lesley, his next of kin – hence the name Katzkin.

“They started out as a leather goods manufacturer, specifically selling leather desk accessories,” relates Hubbard.

The fixation on leather started early. “They sold leather hides to local trim and upholstery shops,” says Hubbard.

But Mitch Katz was observant and resourceful. His focus shifted from the office to the automobile. “He determined that a great deal of time was spent creating leather interiors from scratch,” Hubbard continues. “He felt he could save company customers and, in turn, consumers by creating interiors that would only need to be installed.”

That led to the company’s first major milestone: the first Katzkin leather interior, for a 1986 Honda Accord. It proved a big hit with trim shops. “Success grew from there,” adds Hubbard.

Katzkin ensured continued success by continually upgrading its technology. “We’ve always looked at ways to do things better, maximizing every dollar,” says Hubbard.

In 1993, Katzkin purchased its first automated cutting machine and its first embroidery machines. The investment expanded customizing options. Five years later, the company moved from its original plant and into a state-of-the-art facility in Montebello.

Ever moving forward, in 2004, Katzkin expanded its production and design capabilities by investing in an Asian-based supplier of factory leather interiors. Two years later, Katzkin further modernized its facilities by investing in energy efficient, automated equipment. It has also invested in testing technology. “We need to conduct rigorous testing, as vehicles now include many safety features,” Hubbard points out. “For instance, with airbags, you have to make sure the product has the appropriate threading that doesn’t interfere with deployment.”

Katzkin hopes that customers never have to witness an airbag deployment, but if they do, the company wants to make sure it works right. “Also, there are occupant sensors in all passenger seats, and those sensors must be unimpeded by anything that we produce,” he says, adding “all of our products have passed all of the testing.”

Another major milestone occurred in 2010, when the company decided to make itself much more visible. The work that it had been doing since the mid-1980s had pretty much been an industry secret. Indeed, the company had been an invisible element in the automotive industry.

“We were the invisible component in the purchase transaction process. As far as customers knew, the dealer placed the leather inside the car,” reveals Hubbard.

So, two years ago, Katzkin changed its approach. “Previously, we had pushed our product to restyling customers. Subsequently, we wanted to make consumers more aware of who we are and what we do, and that leather is a viable, affordable option,” reveals Hubbard. “After all, leather is one the top options consumers look for.”

The new logo was part of this directional change. Katzkin wanted to better communicate the nature of its business, its capabilities, and the value it provides.

PRODUCTIVE FACILITY
Katzkin products are not manufactured on some foreign shore. Just about everything is done in the company’s Montebello facility, which employs nearly 470 people and combines high-tech machinery with hand crafting. That way, new seat covers can be made to order and efficiently sent to installers. As the company relates, it has mastered the art of automotive interior design. It takes 200 parts to make just one leather-trimmed interior. “It’s a just-in-time manufacturing facility that meets the quick time frame that characterizes an automobile purchase,” says Hubbard. “We can take an order and customize it the way the consumer envisions, in 24 hours or less. Then, we can get it to them in about 48 hours – even though our options are numerous. We offer 135 colors, two-tone interiors, perforation, and a variety of materials, among others.”

The facility is quite productive, he adds: “It can churn out hundreds of interiors each day and ship out about 800 interiors on any given day. We’re supported by our Malaysian manufacturer, which performs all of the basic, cookie-cutter stuff. Business is further supported by our warehouses located throughout the country – in Connecticut, Tennessee and Texas.”

Products fall into three categories:

  • Premium interiors – making factory-style quality leather trimmed interior an affordable luxury, and available in three colors (black, grey and beige);
  • Custom interiors – a chance for the customer to make a statement, which makes their car interior unique. Consumer personality is matched to the vehicle interior;
  • Limited editions – a single design that represents the pinnacle of automotive interiors.

Finally, the testing is crucial. “It’s difficult to get clearance from major automotive companies,” Hubbard indicates. “But what we offer, after testing, has been approved by manufacturers.”

And Katzkin has established strong relationships with major auto industry players. Partners include Carmax, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Jeep, Mopar and Ram.

Katzkin travels in good company, and consumers do well to climb aboard.

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