Car styling business moves exports up a gear in China

Chamber International export adviser, Roy Broadhead and Kahn Design business development executive, Alexander Feather, at the company’s workshop in Bradford.

An innovative car-styling company which works with some of the world’s best-known car marques is targeting growth in China after major success in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, South America, Africa and the US.

Kahn Design, a group of four companies, is active in all the major continents but now wants to build a network of partner businesses in China after the success of an initial foothold in the country.

Founded by designer and businessman Afzal Kahn, Bradford-based Kahn Design, specifies, manufacturers and supplies a range of styling accessories, from exhausts, pedals, suspension kits and wheels to sports seats, carpets, interior design and bespoke livery and other adaptations for businesses.

Kahn Design, which includes The Chelsea Truck Co, Project Kahn and Kahn Automotive, was launched in 1996 when Kahn designed the RS-R alloy wheel, a wheel with spokes appearing to continue to the rim, and which is now considered a design classic among car enthusiasts.

Customers can either bring their vehicle, from a range which includes Range Rover, Jeep Wrangler, Audi and marques such as Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Maserati and Rolls Royce, to receive personalised styling, or buy a brand new vehicle ‘tailor made’ to their specification.

Overseas partner businesses can either buy the vehicles locally and source the required upgrade package through Kahn Design or buy the vehicle ready-styled to the customer’s requirements from Kahn Group which will then export the vehicle for delivery to the customer.

The Kahn Group also exports bespoke upgrade and styling packages to partner businesses with support from Chamber International.

Kahn Design business development executive, Alexander Feather, says Kahn’s vision has enabled the business to prosper throughout the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, South America, Africa and the US as well as becoming active in China.

He says: “We are expanding through peoples’ desire to express themselves through adding personalised style to their vehicle. This is particularly true in nations with a strong emphasis on a uniform traditional dress as, through us, drivers apply their individuality through their vehicle rather than their clothing.

“We already have a presence in China but it is a huge country and we wish to develop a network of Kahn Design partners to serve a wealthy elite who love British goods and design. We also want help with marketing and promoting our company there to attract business.

“Accessing the Chinese market could have a major impact on our global sales during the next five years and this is why we have sought help from specialists at Chamber International.”

Kahn Design, which has a £20m turnover and 60 staff, many of whom speak different languages for dealing with overseas partners, currently achieves about 60% of sales through exporting.

Chamber International China affairs specialist, Matthew Grandage, says: “China’s car market is now the most valuable in the world. More new cars were bought there than in any other country in 2016 – more than 20 million – and Chinese consumers are also willing to pay much more for their cars than drivers in the UK, especially to own something unique, that reflects the owner’s personal style.

“As a result, sales of accessories and auto-styling are booming, and, with China also being Jaguar Land Rovers’ largest market, it’s clearly a very attractive target for Kahn Designs. Having already built strong customer bases around the world, their decision to target China through local partnerships is a bold, astute and timely move. Chamber International is proud to be part of this next step in Kahn Design’s export adventure.”