General Motors recently introduced a “Precept Technology Demonstration Vehicle” at the Detroit Motor Show as part of the project PNGV (Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles) – a co-operation of American car makers, suppliers and the federal government. The concept car is fitted with the lightest 3.8 kg 16-inch fabricated aluminium wheels by Hayes Lemmerz.
North America’s Accuride Corp. (Evansville/Indiana) is an enormously profitable producer of steel and aluminium wheels for trucks and recorded a record jump in sales to more than 500 million US-$ in 1999. Founded by Firestone in 1905, the company was sold in 1986 to Phelps Dodge Corp., cooperated with Goodyear 1992 and was sold again in 1998 to investment group Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts (KKR). Now the automotive supplier has its eyes set on the European market for investments, maybe also in aluminium wheels for cars.
Authorised VW dealers will integrate a fast fit service in Germany under the name “Car Center” by the end of 2001 open to all car brands. Besides brakes, exhausts and shock absorbers the offer will also include accessories like alloy wheels.
The Nissan factory in Barcelona is not working to capacity and is the obvious candidate for joint production work in similarly built Renault models, according to a statement at the Detroit Motor Show by Carlos Ghosn, ex-Michelin manager, now responsible for the integration of Nissan with Renault. Vehicle suppliers hope to profit from the new arrangements, as Ghosn announced a significant reduction in their numbers. For instance, Hayes Lemmerz supplies nearly all the aluminium wheels to Nissan Europe and is now making big strides with Renault as well.
During the annual shareholders meeting of Continental, the tyre manufacturer announced that it is going to build up an online tyre shop which will go live at the beginning of next year. At first he offer will contains passenger car tyres and service, and later complete wheels and car accessories will be included.
Hayes Lemmerz and The Epilogics Group have announced that Epilogics has granted Hayes Lemmerz worldwide exclusive rights to the Kuhl Wheel technology. The Kuhl Wheel design integrates the hub and spokes into a one-piece stamping. Using standard steel rims, these wheels weigh significantly less than conventional steel wheels and allow greater flexibility in wheel trim design.
The large manufacturers of car wheels, especially those cast of aluminium, are growing ever larger. Business is booming worldwide, but the financial results of most manufacturers in this field of activity are well below those achieved in other industries. Wheel manufacturers, on the one hand, suffer from the low ratings stock exchanges accord to car manufacturers and their suppliers, and on the other, because their products are regarded as “low tech”. But all the time big changes are taking place in the world of wheels – in the form of new technologies and an optimisation of existing products. New wheel technologies, however, are not the only decisive factor, another considerable influence is the car manufacturers’ aggressive pricing, well beyond what many a supplier can bear. Some wheel manufacturers focus their activities on the original equipment market in the belief that it will allow them to operate more cost-effectively. Others like to commit themselves to the refit markets because they think they can thus keep their ears closer to the market and be well-placed to offer car manufacturers superior development capability. Which way is the right one, or whether both can succeed – that is something we shall only know in a few years’ time. Of course the starting position is different from wheel manufacturer to wheel manufacturer and from car producer to car producer. In the comprehensive report in this and the following (April) issues we shall outline the trends in detail.
South African Diversified company Murray & Roberts has a new Chief Executive, Brian Bruce. In an interview Bruce announced that M & R is again in discussions with “some players” to sell subsidiary company Alloy Wheels International (AWI). The producer of oe aluminium wheels closed a factory in Cardiff (Wales) a few weeks ago.
Italian brand Melber had to leave the German aftermarket for alloy wheels last year. In co-operation with Euro Consulting and sales manager Josef Holder the company is now planning a relaunch of the brand in the German market.
Hayes Lemmerz has combined its sales and marketing forces of fabricated and cast wheels in North America. President of the new unit is Ronald Kolakowski, Richard Miller has been appointed vice president and four sales directors are responsible for NA oe customers.
Speedline is a well-known producer of light alloy wheels for original equipment. However, the Italians want to improve their position in the aftermarket and thus a sales company has been formed for Germany in Ravensburg: SL Corse.
The BTE wheel, made from synthetic material, is no longer available from distributors F&F Hybrid-Rad but can be obtained direct from the manufacturer in the small German village of Grube (Schlewig-Holstein).
The division Speedline Truck supplies the major truck manufacturers in Europe and North America. In future the range will include flow-formed wheels – for trucks Speedline uses this technology exclusively, which has the effects of reduced weight and improved mechanical properties.
Velocity is the name of a newly created summer tyre. The program includes eleven sizes from 185/60 R14H to 205/45 ZR16. Continental and Dunlop South Africa are producing the tyre for the Tiger Wheels Group.