Vehicle owners with offbeat tastes might opt for some of automotive leather company Katzkin’s more out-there car seat designs. Like screaming green or camouflage. (Gun racks not included.)    

Katzkin CEO Tim Clyde acknowledges he personally “wouldn’t necessarily” go for an entire seat swathed in, say, electric lime. “But touches of it look distinctive.”

The company located in greater Los Angeles works with automakers’ accessory divisions, dealers and individual car owners to outfit vehicle interiors for all tastes in leather designs. Some are subdued, others not such as a “hyper yellow” color option or ostrich and alligator patterns. Then there are customized college colors and go-team logos emblazoned across the seat. Then again, other Katzkin offerings  appeal to mainstream tastes.    

The company uses a nationwide network of 2,500 restylers for installing its stuff. “We don’t recommend people do their own installation,” Clyde says during a recent visit to metro Detroit.

Doug Johnson, Katzkin’s director-OEM development, adds, “I’ve seen some self-installs that were pretty good, others that were atrocious.”  

Many consumers turn to Katzkin to swap out their vehicles’ cloth seats. Why wouldn’t they get leather in the first place?

Reasons vary. “Sometimes they bought a used car that came with cloth seats,” Clyde says. “Or they didn’t want to pay $8,000 extra for a trim level that included leather seats in a new car. For $1,500 to $2,200 they can get it through us.”

Leather is an aspirational car-interior material, he says. “When you look at the market, 64% of vehicles have cloth seats. Yet, 90% of consumers want leather (if they could get it under certain terms). We have a quick solution for them.”

He believes his company’s products allow automakers and dealers to expand their trim levels. Mopar, the accessories unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, lists several Katzkin products among its offerings.

The leather company prides itself on quickly filling orders at its Montebello, CA, factory, and then getting the restyling work done forthwith. “Faster is always better,” Clyde says, citing a 24- to 48-hour turn time in many cases.

On the other hand, “most people understand customized stitching is not on the shelf,” says Johnson. “They are patient, within reason.”

Some dealers are better than others in selling customization and accessories. Clyde’s advice to dealers who want to get good at it: “Put a couple of vehicles with upgraded features on the floor. Show the customization elements.”

Some customers will fall in love with the display vehicle and want one just like it, he says. “Other people will say, ‘That’s really cool, but I’ll take the black one.’ Either way, you got the message across.”

Johnson adds: “I encourage dealers to put leather in trade-in cars that came with cloth seats. A lot of used-car managers like the idea. They can get more for the car and have less to recondition if the cloth is damaged. And a Texas used-car manager said lots of his customers love the smell of leather.”

Despite its work with automakers and dealers, Katzkin increasingly is marketing to individual owners of vehicles that are potential candidates for leather-seat retro-fitting. About 75% of people who go for the pitch own SUVs and pickup trucks, Clyde says.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com