Afzal Kahn, creator of Kahn Design – famed for its alloy wheels and bespoke Range Rover designs – took the time to show us around his business on Wednesday.
Over cups of Earl Grey tea, we sat with him in his understated corner of the £2m bespoke head office in Bradford he built and listened to the stories and ideas of a true entrepreneur.
Kahn started his business back in the 90s when he realised he could make more money designing and selling his own alloy wheels instead of simply flogging other peoples.
With a simple five spoke design – the iconic RS-R – he flew to Italy, had a factory tool up for his wheels and took a punt with an order of 1,000.
‘I’d sold them before I landed back in Britain,’ he said. ‘I took two tiny adverts out – one in Top Car and the other in Auto Trader – and the phone rang off the hook. After that I knew it could work.’
Now Kahn employs a staff of 70 and counts celebrities like Katie Price and Amir Kahn among his close personal friends. He’s just tied up a deal with Chrysler to modify and sell Jeep Wranglers and his Land Rover models are so popular he gets a discount on cars direct from the factory.
There are two Bugatti Veyrons, a 458, a Rolls Royce Phantom Coupe, Bentley Arnage and even an Aston Martin Cygnet. All of them for sale. In fact the Veyron has just been sold to a Russian for £756k.
The Cygnet comes in for some typically forthright Kahn opinion too: ‘It’s s***. I just don’t know why Aston Martin did it. If I was them and was to make a small car it would be based on a Mini not a Toyota!
‘Give me £7k and a Toyota IQ and I’ll give you a Cygnet back. Ok, it won’t have the badges but it will look identical. I’m going to do that one out there properly – like it should have been done.’
A self confessed petrol head, Kahn obviously loves his firm and is a true believer in supporting other British businesses. His firm has a partnership with Cosworth and he’s working on many more – the latest could even see Harris Tweed used in his seat designs.
‘Im always working, seven days a week,’ he said. ‘I find it hard to delegate and have very clear ideas of how I want things done. But I absolutely love what I do.’
So what’s next?
‘We want to take Kahn to the next level,’ he explains. ‘We are currently looking at franchising the brand, then we’ll move it to Europe and then global.
‘But I’m always working on other things too. I’ve got a website for the motoring community in the design stages and even designed that bidet (as he points to a model of a miniature bottom cleaner on a shelf by his desk).’
We really didn’t know what to expect when Kahn invited us to visit, but it certainly wasn’t what we found: A successful British business headed up by an inspirational innovator who has no plans to scale back. One built from a tiny shop into a multi-million pound giant by a talented entrepreneur.
And that’s something that can only be applauded.
The full story of our visit to Kahn Design and the offering for UK dealers will be featured in the next issue of Car Dealer Magazine. Subscribe to Car Dealer Club here to ensure you get a copy.