Enter the tuners section of the 2015 Geneva Motor Show and one company stood out with a dark theme. Not only were all the cars displayed black in colour (and all Land Rovers), but the carpet as well. With only a contrasting red carpet in the centre or else you just might struggle to locate the entrance. Any darker and they might as well not be there. The Kahn Design stand was therefore a photographer’s nightmare, as the black cars blends in with the black carpet and your camera having little reference points to focus on. Funny that, because just right next to Kahn Design is another tuning company Startech where they displayed only white Land Rovers under bright light as if it was a deliberate move.
Back to the point. I’m curious to know how a company like Kahn Design came to be and how it became what it is today. Thankfully unlike a couple of other tuning companies I’ve visited, I managed to avoid speaking with some PR/Marketing guy who would just repeat to me the perfectly constructed lines, with sugar-coated and vague adjectives such as “precision” and “passion” which you can find in every car brochure. No, I went straight to the founder himself. A British born chap named Afzal Kahn where I got to talk to him about his company bearing his name.
How was the company founded?
“It started off as a hobby. Project of a young boy who loves cars. It was a dream of a young boy who loved cars, and wanted to do something totally different but exciting, with great inspiration and ambition and who is a big dreamer. So that’s how we started. By the age of seventeen or eighteen he (himself) wanted to learn how to make parts, over the period of three or four years he mastered the manufacturing of parts because he was passionate about what he wanted to do. He achieved his goals and went on to designing wheels, and grew from designing wheels to designing interiors, designing watches, and designing everything to do with lifestyle.
Eventually, he started designing the parts and the wheels and using car manufacturers to fit the parts. So he basically designs car parts for cars that is done, and started doing car conversions. Then this business runs for few years and then to cut a long story short, he started designing and manufacturing his own cars. The new brand Huntsman, is his own new car. The 6×6 is the first prototype, and the 4×4 is the second prototype.”
So Huntsman is a totally new car company?
“Yea it’s a totally new car company. Coachbulding. So basically using an existing chassis, and rebuilding a brand new body.”
Do you mainly build Land Rovers?
“We do many cars, but the main one is Land Rover. It is very British, iconic and we are British ourselves. So why do we need to recreate and rebrand a new product when you can use an existing car. This car is now become fashion, is a trend. So now we are working with this car.”
With so many competitors, what makes Kahn stand out?
“They are not (competitors). They are more parts businesses selling parts for cars. We are more lifestyle. You buy Kahn, because you buy it, because it’s a lifestyle. You don’t buy it because you want to buy some wheels. You buy it because you’re more into design and fashion.
So if you look at this: Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood, these are all people’s names. My name is A. Kahn (Afzal Kahn), so you are the face when you buy. You buy into the lifestyle, you buy the personal touch. So this is what I do. You’re buying into a fashion brand. And my quote is The Road Is My Catwalk. I’m the road with my catwalk.”
So is it fair to say that you have no direct rivals?
“No no no no (Agrees). I designed it myself. They have many designers.”
How would you convince someone to choose Kahn over other companies?
“We let them make their own choice. People who understand our business will buy our products. They understand they want something different and unique. People who buys into our products because they understand it’s been designed by a guy who’ve been in this business all his life, and has a passion for cars. When you have a passion for cars and you go to work, because you have to go to work to earn money, and follow the trend. We set the trend.”
*Points at the Huntsman*
“It is mysterious how this one looks. Looks unique. These are not Satin Black, these are grey, Pearl Dark Grey. Not Satin Black, Satin Black is old.”
And these are paints not wrap right?
“No I don’t do wraps. Wraps are hideous.”
Are customers allowed to purchase individual parts for their cars?
When people see your 6×6, surely they will compare it with the Mercedes 6×6?
“Yea they (Mercedes) did the 6×6. I did the 6×6 for half the price. Also, I did the 6×6 to say that the British were the first to do the 6×6. So we’ve engineered this properly. Mercedes-Benz is much bigger than me so obviously they will be doing a better job, but as a showcase that they are not the only company who have invented the 6×6. It hasn’t been invented by them, it’s been invented by the British.”
But Kahn also offers modifications for the G-Wagen right?
“Yea we are about to do a G-Wagen program only for the G-Wagen. There will be a TV show about it on National Geographic.”
So it will be something like National Geographic’s Megafactories?
“Not Megafactories but yea, National Geographic will be doing the show and we are going to do five cars on that program. And on that program we will be building various designs and models, but more customization.”
How big is your company? How many staffs are there for example?
“Nearly two hundred.”
So everything is based in the UK? Such as R&D and production.
Who is your inspiration?
“Nobody. My dream was to become powerful at what I’m good at. And I knew one thing I was good at. I was good at focusing, focusing on something that I would enjoy doing.”
Have you considered having your vehicles featured in a video game or a movie?
“Yes I would love to. Write about it so people can read it!”
Afzal’s facial expression may seem very neutral and I have yet to see him smiling, but you cannot deny his pride and confidence in his company just from the way he speaks. A humble guy he is not, and that is clearly translated to his products. And that is perhaps what makes his company what it is today and the success speaks for itself.