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Chem-E-Car topic of Wednesday seminar

The Mid-Michigan AIChE Section is sponsoring the Chem-E-Car seminar at Michigan State University by Jacob Anibal and Carl Herman, at the Grand Traverse Pie Company, 2600 North Saginaw Road, Midland, from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday.

Each year, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) sponsors the national Chem-E-Car competition between the collegiate AIChE chapters. Teams design and build small, chemical-powered cars to carry a water load over a given distance. The teams then compete against each other at the spring AIChE regional conferences, using a load and distance specified at the competition site. Accuracy in the distance traveled determines the winner, with the best cars stopping within a few centimeters.

This seminar covers the basics of the Chem-E-Car competition and design process, along with an opportunity to see a Chem-E-Car.

Jacob Anibal is a junior at Michigan State University. This year marks his second as the Chem-E-Car team captain. Anibal also works as an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Scott Calabrese Barton’s electrochemical energy research group, researching oxygen reduction catalysts for fuel cell applications. Prior to this position, Anibal conducted thermodynamics research for four semesters as a professorial assistant under Dr. Carl Lira.

Carl Herman has been a part of the Chem-E-Car design team for two years. Last year, his focus was on calibrating a “clock reaction,” which served to stop the car. This summer he worked for Baker Hughes Inc. as a RD intern, working on the monitoring of sour corrosion using electrochemical techniques. He wants to use these insights to further refine battery designs used in Chem-E-Car. He is currently employed by The Dow Chemical Co. as a co-op.

This meeting is free and open to the public. Light snacks will be available while they last beginning at 6 p.m.

The lecture qualifies for one professional development hour. PDH certificates will be provided to interested attendees. For more information, contact Bruce Holden (989) 636-5225) or visit


Monday, October 20, 2014 1:30 pm.

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Hydrogen-powered car designed in the cloud

Riversimple, a Powys-based start-up developing a road-going hydrogen fuel cell powered car is carrying out some of its design in the cloud and has adopted Cadonix cloud-based automotive harness CAD tools.

“We’re designing a radically new car – which will be in market trials late next year. It emits nothing but a tiny amount of water and will do more than the equivalent of 200mpg,” said David Rothera, vehicle electronic engineer at Riversimple.

The firm is developing a two-seater local network electric car, powered by hydrogen fuel cells and with a body made from composite materials.

RD is led out of Wales by an engineering team drawn from top automotive, aerospace and motor racing; design is led by Chris Reitz, former design chief for the Fiat 500, with his team at their studio in Barcelona.

The team is aiming for fuel efficiency of more than 200mpg, a range of 300 miles, 0-30mph in 5.5 seconds, and a cruising speed of 55 mph.

The demanding electrical design parameters imposed by the use of the crucial lightweight composite body called for closer integration between the circuit design and the electrical harness tools.

“Cloud based design is new for us,” said Rothera, “but even at this early stage we’ve come to appreciate the flexibility of being able to access the design from anywhere. Arcadia is a flexible and intuitive tool, which will be fully able to address the need to include a return path, and other issues specific to the design of this unusual vehicle.”

The Arcadia CAD tool offering schematic design, animated circuit simulation and analysis, electrical networking, harness design and full design rule checking for wire harness layout and manufacture. It interfaces with 3D MCAD and enterprise wide PLM and ERP tools for project management.




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Wife Doodles On Her Husband’s Car With A Sharpie And It’s Amazing

While recently tuning up his Nissan Skyline GTR sports car, an auto enthusiast decided to forgo a traditional paint job. Instead, he asked his incredibly talented wife if she wouldn’t mind doodling on the vehicle with a sharpie.

The car enthusiast, a member of the U.S. Military, hated the car’s silver color, and wanted to do something unique. He started by allowing his wife to draw on a few scratches that were already on his car’s bumper.

When the man saw his wife’s work, he realized that her elegant drawings deserved a bigger platform, so he allowed her to color in the entire car, while he worked on revamping it from the inside.

His wife spent more than 100 hours sketching on the car, and then they added several layers of clear coat so the sharpie design would not rub off or wash away in the rain.

Here is the final product in all of its amazing glory.

Related Resources from B2C
» Free Webcast: Digital Skills Talent Gap Study Summary of Top Findings and How to Apply for 2015 Learning Programs

And here is the Nissan Skyline GTR with its full sharpie design and clear coat:

A customized paint job like this would cost thousands upon thousands of dollars at a professional shop, and to be honest the results might not be this good. This artist really is crazy talented with a sharpie.

This article originally appeared on Give It Love and has been republished with permission.

Find out how to syndicate your content with Business 2 Community.

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Sunderland-born designer invents a driverless car that can double as a bedroom …

Imagine a future where driverless cars are not only the norm but could double up as a bedroom, a one-man office or even a mini cocktail bar.

Well, Sunderland-born Dominic Wilcox has not only came up with the vision but he’s created it – in the form of this strikingly colourful Mini-Cathedral car.

His tantalising vision of the future, taking the idea of driverless cars to the extreme, is inspired by the mighty Durham Cathedral and the Mini – the kind his auntie used to drive.

“My aunt Angela always drove an original classic mini around the streets of Sunderland,” says the 39-year-old, whose stained glass-topped vehicle opens up to reveal a full-size bed.

But it could just as easily house a work station, points out Dominic.

Driverless vehicles, currently being developed by the likes of Google, would see robotic cars which were able to guide and drive themselves – ‘talking’ electronically to other vehicles to avoid crashes.

And Dominic, who already has a whole host of quirky inventions to his name including GPS shoes to guide the wearer in the right direction, was one of six cutting-edge young designers commissioned by the Dezeen and Mini Frontiers exhibition – a collaboration between the design website and car manufacturer – to create their vision for the future of mobility.

The car’s unveiling at the exhibition as part of this year’s London Design Festival caused a huge stir.

“People don’t expect to see cars made of glass. At the exhibition people came over as it looked interesting then realised it had wheels and was some sort of vehicle. Then I lifted up the shell and showed them the bed – they probably weren’t expecting that!

“There’s been a lot of discussion on the subject which is one of the reasons for doing it, to spark people’s imaginations to go and think of ideas themselves.”

The Mini-Cathedral car, a driverless car and vision of the future, designed by Sunderland-born artist Dominic Wilcox who was inspired by the Mini and Durham Cathedral

We could be soon seeing his futuristic car first-hand as Dominic, a former pupil of St Aidan’s in Sunderland now living in London, is in talks about exhibiting it in Newcastle next month.

Of its design, he says: “I’ve always liked the original Mini and the windows of my car are taken from it.

“Then when I visited family and we went to Durham Cathedral I looked at the windows there and thought they looked really wonderful and wouldn’t it be interesting to bring that stained glass into a more contemporary object.

“You don’t really see stained glass in modern designs and it was also the idea of turning it into a 3D object rather than flat.”

It took about nine weeks to build after just a five-day stained glass course.

Dominic says driverless cars would be ideal for elderly stuck at home or those with disabilities but his imagined future for 2059 – 100 years after the launch of the first Mini, – pushes the extremes of what is already possible.

“I know Google are taking employees around their facilities in a driverless car and they can be doing work while it takes them where they want to go, and they are already being tested in America on public roads.

“I’m proposing that in 2059 driverless cars will be commonplace.

“In the future there will be a motorway which only driverless cars will be allowed to use so there will be no collisions, no human drivers going crazy, and if the cars are super-safe then car designers don’t have to worry about all the safety equipment such as air bags and crumple zones.

“People don’t need own cars. Instead they can order a robot taxi and a size: a single, double or one for four or six people then they can choose the interior – a desk if they want to do work, a play room with games, a jacuzzi … anything is possible.”

Dominic, who did an art and design foundation course in Sunderland then went to Edinburgh College of Art followed by the Royal College of Art in London, has a book out, Variations on Normal, full of sketches of his often madcap inventions, guaranteed to make people both laugh and think.

“What I like about sketches is that it’s the shortest distance between my imagination and your imagination,” he added.

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nikola bozovic transforms car parts into phantasms at belgrade design week

nikola bozovic transforms car parts into phantasms at belgrade design week
image © designboom




the exhibition ‘phantasm on wheels’ by nikola kolja božović presents the results of the serbian artist’s own research into various aspects of the car as both a physical vessel, and a carrier of cultural and social significance. on the occasion of belgrade design week 2014, božović has displayed a series of manipulated machinery sourced from automobile segments, acting as a metaphor for fetish, fantasy, obsession and status. 


in addition to sculptural objects created through the transformation of disused vehicular parts, božović’s spatial installation for the gallery space of the BDW dizajnpark exhibitions within the old staklopan factory suspends the viewer in a fictional world of personal phantasm, seemingly with phallic undertones. designboom spoke with the artist about the metaphorical context latent within automobiles, in what ways he sources these unconventionally artistic, yet ubiquitous materials, and his own notions regarding the bridge between art and design.



designboom interviews serbian artist nikola kolja božov at belgrade design week 2014




for božović, a car is not just a machine — it represents capitalism, consumerism, creativity and cultural obsession. the gallery space becomes a field for reinterpreted shapes, reconstructed from the built creations that make up our environment. with these irregular-formed geometries and ‘exploded’ segments of cars, the artist consciously changes the established direction and connotations of the physical world around us.


the artist begins his work with the disassembly and reconstruction of distinguished vehicle parts from various manufacturers, which than are physically transformed by replacing their social role with an aesthetic one. božović’s intention is to personify the parts, giving them human features: headlights look like eyes, a cooler resembles a mouth, a carburetor could be internal organs, fuel is blood and the body is like a skeleton. the emerging transfiguration of objects symbolize the present situation and rituals derived from societal relationships; in turn, he implies that fetishes, fashion trends and collections of art — for example — can of often become a replacement for the physical and emotional relationships sustained between people.

sculptural forms are suspended from the gallery, while free standing objects are placed within the context of the space
image © designboom




božović’s distinct union of pop art and automotive fetish is reflected in the materials used: the surface of the sculptures is made of sheet metal, putty and plastics, is painted using colored car lacquer, and finally mirror-polished. after the physical transformation of structure and shape, each object becomes a composition in itself. the artist uses fiats and other various four-wheelers as the starting point for generating a surreal interpretation of an object used in everyday life.

a glistening blue, wheel-shaped sculpture can be seen as a sort of phallic reinterpretation of the original car part
image © designboom

hanging sculptures are fit within a built container, recontextualizing the car light in a new configuration
image © designboom

light parts otherwise overlooked on cars are highlighted for their intricate attention to detail
image © designboom

božović’s distinct union of pop art and automotive fetish is reflected in the materials used
image © designboom

objects are physically transformed by replacing their social role with an aesthetic one
image © designboom

the gallery space becomes a field for reinterpreted shapes
image © designboom

after a physical intervention to the original part, each object becomes a composition in itself
image © designboom

installation view within the old staklopan factory exhibition space
image © designboom

a hood of a car is reinterpreted into a sculptural form
image © designboom



nikola kolja božov talks to designboom about his sculptural works made from car parts

božović speaks about his work during a belgrade design week conference
image © designboom

portrait of nikola božović
image © designboom




about belgrade design week:


2014 marks the ninth edition of belgrade design week, an annual, internationally-renowned festival for creative industries and modern business in serbia and throughout the south east european area. since 2005, founder jovan jelovac has successfully forged multicultural connections between artists, designers and entrepreneurs from the region with the greater global design scene. the initiative serves as a platform for creatives to engage in the exchange of ideas across a range of disciplines — advertising, architecture, arts management, communications, design, fashion, marketing, new media and publishing — delivering approximately 30 international speakers who share their perspectives and personal developments in their respective fields.


this year’s conference program ‘brand new world’ sets opens up discussion regarding the creation of new values in today’s fast changing world. on the occasion of this edition, president of the republic of serbia, tomislav nikolic opened the initiative, stressing the importance of the creative industries for the continued development of the country’s economy. local designers stand side by side with some the world’s greatest talents in a rare opportunity to bring the world to belgrade and to present belgrade to the world. find out more about the program, selection of keynote speakers and exhibition sites on designboom, here.


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World’s First 3D Printed Car Took Years To Design, But Only 44 Hours To Print

World’s First 3D Printed Car Took Years To Design, But Only 44 Hours To Print


Published on Wednesday, 17 September 2014 08:49

The Strati 3D-Printed Car. IMAGE: LOCAL MOTORS

One day, in the not-too-distant future, you’ll be able to walk into a car dealership, choose a design — including the number of seats — and have a 3D printed car by the end of the day.

This is Jay Rogers’ vision. Rogers is the CEO of Local Motors, the company that just built the world’s first 3D printed car known as the Strati. The electric, pint-sized two-seater was officially unveiled last week at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago, Illinois.

“Telsa made the electric drive train famous, we’re changing the whole car,” Rogers told Mashable, clearly still relishing his community-based design and his company’s moment in the 3D manufacturing sun.

According to Ford Motors, most cars have somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 parts. The Strati has just 49, including its 3D printed body (the largest part), plus more traditional components like the motor, wheels, seats and windshield. While many 3D printed car models exist, there haven’t been any other drivable ones that we could find.

Strati’s 3D-printed body. IMAGE: LOCAL MOTORS

The original design for Strati, which means “layers” in Italian, did not bubble up directly from Local Motors. Rather, the company — similar to the inventions company Quirky — encourages members to share vehicle design ideas, which the community then works to perfect and productize. The finished products are then sold online and in retail stores by Local Motors.

Local Motors launched a project 18 months ago that sought to simplify the car design and manufacturing process through Direct Digital Manufacturing. When it put out the call for workable 3D printed car designs, it received more than 200 submissions, ultimately choosing a design by Michele Anoe, who is based in Italy.

Rogers said Anoe’s design stood out because it fit perfectly with Local Motors’ desired production technique, combining 3D printing and a subtractive machining.

Yet even with the design in hand, Local Motors spent the better part of a year finding a company that could print the first car. The eventual production partner, Oak Ridge Labs, found a company with the base of a large laser printer, which they retrofitted with a 3D extruder. The second half of the 3D production process took place in a separate Cincinnati manufacturing routing machine, which refined the overall look of the car.

Printing the car took roughly 44 hours, and milling it to perfection took another full day. Local Motors then built the Strati over the course of four days at the IMTS.

“We probably could have done it in two days or less,” Rogers said — but they stretched it out for the show.

Printed in carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic or ABS, the finished Strati can drive at speeds up to 40 mph and can travel 120 miles on a single charge. It’s fine for a neighborhood jaunt, but is not yet allowed on highways. Rogers said there are plans to test the car extensively before selling it to customers or putting it on the freeway.

The Local Motors team builds the Strati 3D printed car. IMAGE: LOCAL MOTORS

Auto manufacturers like Ford have been using 3D printing techniques for decades, but according to a company spokesperson, currently only uses the process for prototyping. (So far, there haven’t been any 3D printed parts in Ford vehicles.) Thus, the concept of building a vehicle almost entirely through the 3D printing process is likely intriguing to traditional car makers like Ford.

Although the Strati is just as expensive as a full-sized sedan, Rogers does not envision it as a luxury item. Instead, he believes it will be an affordable and highly customizable option that could be widely available by 2016 for between $18,000 and $34,000.

“It will be positioned like a car for the masses, or many different cars for the masses,” Rogers said.






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LA Show Car Heralds a New Era for Audi Design

Wraps to come off first concept car developed under the direction of new
Head of Audi Design Marc Lichte at the Los Angeles Auto Show

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg and Head of Design Marc Lichte present
revolutionary concept car

New design idiom embodies the progressive values of Audi

Concept car opens new perspectives in automotive design


MILTON KEYES — October 15, 2014: Audi is preparing to enter a new era of design – at the Los Angeles Auto
Show, which begins on November 19, the brand with the four rings will
present the first show car to bear the signature of its new Head of Design
Marc Lichte.

For 45 year old Lichte, who was appointed Head of Audi Design in
February 2014, the core competences of the brand – sportiness,
lightweight design and quattro drive – all have a high level of
importance. In a new and highly emotional design idiom, Marc Lichte
communicates the technical competence and uncompromising product quality of
the Audi brand – vehicle design is becoming an even stronger
expression of progressive technology.

The concept car at the Los Angeles Auto Show marks a new beginning in
Audi Design – both exterior and interior.

Marc Lichte was born on August 9, 1969 in Arnsberg in the Sauerland
region of Germany. He began his professional career at Volkswagen AG in
1996 while still a student at Pforzheim University studying transportation

After joining the company, he worked as an exterior designer before
being appointed Head of the Exterior Design Studio in 2006. At Volkswagen,
Marc Lichte worked on production models that included the Golf 5, 6 and 7,
the Passat 6, 7 and 8, the Touareg and the Phaeton.

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Audi Concept Car Previews New Design Direction: 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show

  • Audi Concept Car Picture

    An Audi concept car set for the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show showcases a new beginning for Audi design.
    | October 15, 2014

Just the Facts:

  • Audi will unveil a concept car at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show that previews a new design direction for the German brand.
  • A new emphasis will be put on “sportiness” and “lightweight design,” according to Audi.
  • “Vehicle design is becoming an even stronger expression of progressive technology,” Audi said.

INGOLSTADT, Germany Audi will unveil a concept car at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show that previews a new design direction for the German brand, the company said on Tuesday.

A new emphasis will be put on “sportiness” and “lightweight design,” according to Audi.

“Vehicle design is becoming an even stronger expression of progressive technology,” Audi said.

Audi confirmed few details about the concept car, except to say it “marks a new beginning in Audi Design — both exterior and interior.”

An overhead teaser photo of the concept car triggered widespread media speculation that this is a new flagship model — perhaps a four-door coupe — that may slot in above the Audi A8 sedan.

The unnamed concept car is the work of Marc Lichte, the new head of Audi design who is a former senior Volkswagen designer. He worked on several of the most important VW vehicles in the past decade. They include versions of the Volkswagen Golf, Passat, Touareg and Phaeton.

Edmunds says: This concept car is not just a fantasy vehicle. It will have major implications for car shoppers who are seeking the best in German automotive design.

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BMW chief designer Karim Habib on creating a boxier 2-series convertible





PARIS — Karim Habib, BMW Group’s head of design, is the one responsible for creating the 2-series convertible the automaker debuted recently at the Paris auto show.

The 44-year-old Lebanese-Canadian held various posts in interior and exterior design at BMW before getting his current title. Habib is thoughtful, articulate, smart and eager to jump right into deep discussions over espresso about the future of car design.

“BMWs are about motion — you don’t drive a BMW because you have to,” Habib said. “When I design, I am always working to honor that thought.”

He also has ideas on whether the i8 looks masculine or feminine — and why. Habib sat down recently with Hannah Elliott of Bloomberg News to discuss design. 

Tell me about the 2 series.

The convertible is a derivative of the coupe. There is a difference to it from the 1 series, although there are quite a few parts that are the same. It’s more about the character for this car, though, because it really is the direct lineage from the 2002.

People love that car.

Or even now more and more people are really appreciating the E30 — that very clear original BMW spirit. And that’s what we focused on essentially, trying to show it become a little boxier. We could have made it a more flowing C-pillar [the trusses that hold a car's rear side windows in place] like the 4 series, but we purposely tried to make it have corners. When you make a convertible, and that roof is gone, then what makes it then is that special character [of C-pillar design]. One more thing that is typical of the BMW classic roadster convertible: We also tried to make the trunk lid as low as possible. On the other hand, it can’t be too low because you don’t have the roof! So that was the major exercise, trying to find that balance. We did it in the 1-series convertible. And that’s why that car is one of the best-selling convertibles — it has the classic feel of BMW convertibles. With the 2 series we did that and made it one click sportier, one click more precise in the line work. Maybe a little bit edgier, a little bit boxier.


How much credence do you give to consumer feedback and market trends vs. your own opinion about what should be done, what is right, where the design should go?

I mean, I am going to say that we don’t design cars for ourselves, but our own beliefs as a company, the values, are what it stands for. But we also start with a process where we look around. We have design groups and a context design group in our department. They actually don’t draw very much but they research. They travel around the world and talk to trend researchers, talk to architects, journalists and social research people, and they usually try and design a world, a context in the future for which we’re designing.

So without getting too philosophical, is there such a thing as absolute beauty in the world, or is it all always in the eye of the beholder?

Hmmm. Uh. That is a very philosophical question! Let me have a sip of my coffee.

OK. For me, for instance, that 2 series looks beautiful. But in a masculine way. A Ferrari to me looks feminine. They both are beautiful, but differently.

Ferraris are feminine? But they’re still beautiful to you?


And this is handsome?


I will get philosophical if you’ll allow me some metaphors with women. Just proportional metaphors: Length of the legs to the body. There’s something out there that says women with longer legs … OK? But on the other hand if you look at paintings — I’m really getting philosophical now. If you look at paintings from the 18th century where women were rounder or had very light skin, that was beautiful. Light skin, big eyes, there are always different things that mean different things to different people, and I just think for cars the long hood has always meant a sort of elegance. That’s maybe part of it. I mean if you think of Ferrari, Ferrari was always that. And those Ferraris to me look really beautiful. But if you look at the i8, we designed that car to balance the proportions very differently from a Ferrari or even a Lamborghini. It’s pretty long. So like the original M1, it’s a bit more balanced. So beauty, to me for cars, [is] a certain balance. A sportiness. And also a humanness. When you look at somebody who looks sportier, maybe they’re better looking than someone who is not. There are a lot of things about cars that have to do with human physiology, even the face. And the rear. We talk about shoulders when we talk about the rear as well.

How will the proliferation of alternative fuel vehicles affect the ways cars are designed in the future?

Well, I think it’s the best time to be a designer. I really do. We would have never done the i brand if the world wasn’t changing. How awesome as a designer to do that? And that isn’t changing. We are using more carbon fiber, we are going to be mixing aluminum, steel, carbon fiber. And we have to work with more aerodynamics in mind. That’s a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity. Even cars on the stand today show how we used aerodynamic restriction to make design features that have made the car better.

What do you mean by aerodynamic restriction?

To achieve our goal of making something that is fuel efficient, we have to make it aerodynamically as strong as possible. We want it to look also dynamic on the sides, so we push the back glass pretty far forward, because we need a long roof and a pretty long spoiler. And that’s one thing that looks really quite dynamic. The other thing is a detail. What’s really good for a car is to end with an edge. The i8, for example, has this edge in the rear where it’s all going down, because it takes the turbulence and ends it; the turbulence area in the rear becomes much shorter. It creates an edge and goes around it, and the air keeps flowing. And even on the 2 series we have a small edge on the taillamp, which you don’t really see because it’s in glass. We usually like to do that. But this time we said we know we have to do this, so we took that edge all the way down and connected it to the bumper line. And you don’t really see that usually but that actually is something that I really like because in the end it gives the car a much better stance.

Sometimes people say vintage cars are more exciting and more emotional than modern cars, and the answer often given is that it’s because designers back then didn’t have federal efficiency mandates and safety regulations, etc, etc. But what you’ve described is a scenario where stricter mandates are prompting new creativity.

Sure. Yes. I mean there are different perspectives on that. I think it does. But obviously I’m an industrial designer, and I live in a world of industrial regulations. Probably an artist would say, “Well you’re just subject to the external factors,” so there are two schools of thought. There’s truth to both. I’m always amazed with the kids on my team. They come up with amazing solutions, and I love that. And it’s part of — sorry for being philosophical again — it’s the amazing thing about mankind. That you take a challenge and you make something happen. It’s a little part of it — it’s just a line of a car — but it’s a pretty amazing development.

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Inside The Katzkin Process For Customized Luxury Car Interiors

Inside The Katzkin Leathers Process

Katzkin wants to change your relationship with your car. “If exteriors are like dating, that’s what you see and that’s what attracts you to the car,” says David Giddings, Katzkin’s Vice President of Marketing. “But the interior is like marriage, because that’s what you live with on a day-to-day basis.” Katzkin makes and distributes custom leather interiors.

“There’s a feeling of authenticity and genuine luxury that leather naturally has within it,” according to Katzkin’s Chief Designer David O’Connell. “A lot of times, the cloth interior is the Peter that was robbed to pay Paul.” Manufacturers focus technology and money on trim pieces, replicating wood and metal textures and looks, and cloth seats wind up getting installed as a compromise. “We try to replace the ingredients that are missing,” says O’Connell.

Katzkin Leather, Inc. is a privately held corporation based in Montebello, California. The company was founded as a leather goods company in 1983 by siblings Mitchell and Lesley Katz, and has transformed almost two million vehicles since specializing in car interiors in 1986.

Katzkin maintains a library of seat patterns for over 3,000 vehicle applications, ranging from new production vehicles to popular classic cars. A Katzkin interior is not a set of seat covers – it consists of a made to order, factory fit replacement for the original seat material. Professional installation is part of the service, available through new car dealers and a network of over 2,500 authorized interior installers. It’s as far from slip-on seat covers as a tailored suit is from an off-the-rack jacket and pants from Sears.

The advantage for someone who is restoring a car or building a custom car is obvious. Katzkin quality rivals or exceeds the quality of a factory leather interior. “We have very longstanding relationships in the leather business,” says Katzkin’s former CEO and current Chairman Brooks Mayberry. “Producing leather is a bit like cooking. It requires a recipe. You’re working with a natural product. The key to producing leather is to achieve consistency.”

When you buy a new car, you’re at the mercy of product planners. The manufacturing process is very complex, and in order to streamline the ordering and building process, planners create trim levels and packages of features and options. If you want a leather interior, you might have to order a higher trim level vehicle that also includes other features, like GPS navigation or blind spot monitoring, that you don’t necessarily want or need. Higher trim levels cost more, and increase the bottom line for dealers. Ordering just the features that you want a la carte may be difficult or even impossible at certain times of the year. If your dealer has a relationship with Katzkin, the possibility of getting just the car you want opens up more broadly. You could, for instance, purchase a base model vehicle, unencumbered by expensive electronics, which are often bundled in the higher trim level. That base model vehicle would more than likely come from the factory with a cloth or vinyl interior. You can elevate the luxury of the base model by having a custom Katzkin leather interior installed, and you’ve now got a unique, personalized luxury vehicle without extraneous features that you didn’t want or need. If you buy the interior through your dealer during the initial purchase process, you should be able to finance the interior’s cost along with the vehicle purchase, and the Katzkin interior comes with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty, the equivalent of most new car basic warranties.

There are three levels of Katzkin interiors, defined by their design origins. “Factory Design” is just what it sounds like – a recreation of the original manufacturer’s design, executed in premium leather. “Katzkin Design” takes off from there, with colors, patterns and stitching designed by in-house designers, led by David O’Connell.  “Design Your Own” gives consumers the opportunity to design their own interiors using an online tool on the Katzkin website.

The majority of customers wind up ordering a Katzkin Design interior. Mayberry believes that the breadth of choice in the Design Your Own option is its own weakness. “It’s one thing to design a tennis shoe on If you don’t like it, it’s a fifty-dollar mistake. In your car that you’re going to live in for the next few years, we saw that you need a professional designer, so we recruited David O’Connell.”

O’Connell is passionate about automotive interiors. He’s a product of the influential Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Fellow graduates include auto designers J. Mays (Ford), Chris Bangle (BMW), Franz von Holzhausen (Tesla) and customizer Chip Foose. O’Connell spent time Peugeot Peugeot at the beginning of his career, and then took over design for Mitsubishi North America in 1984. Since 2011, he’s been Chief Designer at Katzkin, while maintaining a concurrent teaching schedule at Art Center. “When you open up a car, what’s the first thing that you see? The seats, right?” says O’Connell. “And if you can make that the entryway, when you open the door of the car you can give it that ‘Wow, look at that!,’ then we’ve succeeded. I think that’s what people want now. They want to go beyond. We have the opportunity to go beyond what is conventional and typical.”

“A lot of the time, when a vehicle goes through the production cycle a lot of things get costed out or were taken out of manufacturing,” explains O’Connell. “So, what we’re able to do here at Katzkin is put back some of that content that got edited out in the process of going through production. We can take and add the colors, the materials, maybe some of the tailoring on the interiors that literally got taken out in the process of creating that vehicle. We’re also able to allow a great degree of personalization.”

I had the opportunity to watch as a 2012 Mazda3 received a custom Katzkin interior, designed by O’Connell. The Mazda3 is a perfect candidate for the Katzkin treatment. It’s not a luxury car, but it is stylish and sporty. Its cloth interior is passable, but not quite elegant. O’Connell presented three options to the owner, and she selected a conservative monochromatic black perforated leather with contrasting stitching. The interior order was then conveyed to the Montebello factory, where it was cut and stitched according to model-specific patterns from the Katzkin library.

Once the interior was ready, the vehicle was handed over to the installation team. Two installers first deconstructed the Mazda3’s interior, completely removing the seats and door panels from the vehicle, and then stripping the factory cloth from the seats and doors.

The Mazda3 was receiving a new Katzkin enhancement, Degreez. Degreez is not only a leather interior, it adds heating and cooling to the front seats – a true luxury feature. The installers determined a location for the individual switches for the heating/cooling function, and performed minor modifications to the center console to accept the switches. The electric components were connected to the vehicle’s existing system, and the leather interior was installed over the original seat padding, now enhanced with the Degreez system. Finally, the seats and door panels were reinstalled into the vehicle. The new interior looks better than stock, transforming the economy commuter Mazda3 into an elegant luxury car. The seat heating and cooling works as well as any factory installation, and the fit and finish on the total installation is impeccable. Remarkably, installation took just one day, despite what looked like full deconstruction of the car’s interior. This is miles beyond an aftermarket seat cover. This is a vehicle transformation.

“Our research shows that eighty-six percent of consumers would prefer to have leather,” according to Giddings. “Over thirty percent of new car volume has leather, and it may go to thirty-five or forty percent in a decade. That still means that sixty percent of vehicles don’t come with leather. The pie is so huge, the opportunity is enormous.”

“To put this in perspective, we make interiors for three thousand different vehicle applications that are available in more than a hundred and forty colors that can be customized in hundreds of ways,” says Mayberry. “And so there are literally millions of permutations and combinations and every leather interior consists of over two hundred parts that have to be cut, combined, inspected, packed and shipped and we have one day in which to do that. We have just-in-time mass customization – single piece flow production. Because when consumers buy a new car, they’re losing sleep. They can’t wait to get it. They’re all excited and if it’s going to take longer than Wednesday, forget it! So, we have to manufacture a product that is frankly more complex than a leather sofa that you might expect six to eight weeks lead-time on. We have one day.”

Katzkin’s suggested retail prices for a two-row interior (installed) start at $1,995 for Factory Design and $2,195 for Katzkin Design, with an additional $300 for third row seats. Design Your Own prices “vary based on interior selection.”

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