A Chat with Katzkin at the WeAreMopar Charity Fanfest
Dodge Forum learns more about the company that Ram, Jeep, Dodge, and Chrysler owners, and even Mopar itself go to for special interior packages.
Katzkin invited me to attend the second annual WeAreMopar charity fan festival at the Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth. In an email, it told me there would be more than 1,600 Mopar vehicles at the event. It said the event would benefit the Homeless Veterans Services of Dallas However, it didn’t give me a heads-up that I would experience déjà vu twice in the same day.
I started my time at the celebration of all things Mopar with an interview of Chris Cassell, the vice president of DFWLX. He told me that Mopar drivers aren’t part of a club or a group, they’re part of a family.
As I walked past rows of custom Chargers, tricked-out Challengers, enhanced Vipers, lifted Jeeps, and personalized Rams, I ran into Levi Lewis, the founder, president, and CEO of the Alamo City LX Modern Mopar non-profit organization. After telling me about his long history of Mopar vehicle ownership (which includes a 1974 Dodge Power Wagon), he let me know more about his 501(c)(7). He said, “We’re a club, but we’re a family first.” That’s when the déjà vu hit for the first time.
I thanked Lewis for his time and made my way to the Katzkin tent. There I met Deb Pollack from its Strategic Partnerships and Marketing Communications division and Doug Johnson, Katzkin’s director of OEM Development. They told me the brother and sister duo of Mitch and Lesley Katz started their leather goods manufacturing company in 1983 and decided to name it Katzkin because their last name was Katz and they were kin to each other. A business that started with a family. Hello again, déjà vu.
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Before meeting with Pollack and Johnson, I knew the broad strokes of what Katzkin does. They proceeded to fill in the gaps between them. Fundamentally, Katzkin offers leather interiors for vehicles that don’t come with them. It has more than 2,500 applications for a wide variety of mid-market vehicles. Whatever is covered in cloth can be recovered with leather. Options range from Katzkin’s Premium leather, which is available in 60 colors, to its Suedezkin synthetic suede to its supple Tuscany leather. Katzkin has licensing agreements with Rawlings, Remington, Realtree, Foose Design, and Outlaw, so if someone wants camo-accented buckets in their Wrangler or Western-themed seats in their Durango, they can get them. Katzkin can also equip a vehicle with its Degreez heated and cooled seats. No matter which leather color/design a Katzkin client chooses, it’s backed by a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty.
Katzkin uses three major distribution methods. One is through new car dealerships. According to Katzkin, its interiors are “trusted by Chrysler for their entire family of vehicles (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, RAM and Fiat) as well as the Ford Motor Company.” If a customer wants a Katzkin leather interior on their vehicle, they can pick it as an option and have the price of it rolled into the price of their new ride. For instance, you can add a Katzkin leather interior to a 2017 Ram 1500 Lone Star Crew Cab for $1,400 (after also upgrading to $295 bucket seats), which breaks down to $18 a month. Overall, retail prices typically range from $1,995 to $2,295 for a 2-row interior. Johnson summed it up by calling Katzkin “the trim level between trim levels.”
Another way of getting a Katzkin interior is at a Carmax dealership. Pre-owned vehicle customers who sign on the dotted line at one of those can get their purchases fitted with a customized Katzkin leather and have the price of that added to the price of their new-to-them set of wheels.
The third way Katzkin gets its transformative hands on vehicle interiors is through its network of authorized professional installers. Thanks to its just-in-time manufacturing system, Katzkin can start on a customer car and return it to them with a new leather interior in 24-28 hours.
Given how many Challengers and Chargers I saw at WeAreMopar, I assumed those two models make up the bulk of Katzkin’s workload. I was wrong. It works on Ram pickups the most because many of them are not trimmed with leather from the factory. Wranglers are a close second. I sat in one with the Realtree-themed seats and noticed that their additional padding was soft without being bulky.
Challengers and Chargers do got a lot of attention from Katzkin, though. The owners of those usually choose two-tone color schemes to replace the factory leather. Many female Katzkin customers have the company brighten up their vehicle cabins with pink leather.
Pollack and Johnson gave me an interesting glimpse into a company that’s a large part of the Mopar world, one made up of people who value speed and customization. Hmmm… Mopar, speed, and customization? I’m starting to feel déjà vu…again.