From niche to niche: Former Mitsubishi designer now into leather

We’ll excuse you if you don’t remember designer Dave O’Connell–he has labored in obscurity for years putting style into Mitsubishi’s various models, from in-your-face sports cars to everyday suburban grocery getters to all-terrain appliances.

Because Mitsubishi has been such a niche player in the U.S. market, O’Connell hasn’t become quite the household name like Ford’s J Mays, Chrysler’s Ralph Gilles or General Motor’s Ed Welburn.

With Mitsubishi on the ropes and its U.S. design center mothballed, O’Connell has moved on to become the chief designer at Katzkin Leather Inc., the California-based supplier of custom leather seats and such. O’Connell said his hiring brings a change of direction for the former purveyor of ostrich skin, with design leading the way as the company seeks out business providing unique interiors for niche vehicles.

The 2013 Dodge Dart will get a Katzkin option; current work on display at the Detroit auto show and on sale includes the Detroit Red Wings Dodge Ram pickup, with Katzkin leather seats embroidered with the team’s iconic winged wheel logo.

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