Wacky wheels are the future
As the tire market throughout Europe appears to get even busier and definitely more competitive, it is easy to sometimes forget that without one other vital product there would be no tires... at all! Of course, I am referring to wheels, or rims as they are sometimes called, which continue to be big business in Europe.
Having recently attended the Reifen Show 2014 in Essen, Germany, I was amazed by the growing number of companies promoting the latest designs of alloy and steel wheels. Amazed, but not really surprised. One word, in my opinion, has helped to drive the design of wheels to even higher levels of style and sales impact over the past few years. That word is style — and an ongoing quest to offer the most flamboyant, visually attractive wheel designs on the market.
Choices, choices, choices
In Europe we now have a number of different options to consider when buying a set of alloy wheels — apart from deciding on alloy or steel. For example, drivers can now choose from an ever-growing selection of personalized finishes including color coded, glitter effect, two-tone, shadow chrome and hydro graphics. At the same time, virtually any chosen color can be catered to, even the most unusual and bizarre! It’s also worth noting this unique facility is particularly popular in the wheel refurbishment market.
Color coding is where the new color of an alloy wheel is exactly matched to a vehicle’s official color, which is considered a simple procedure that produces a stunning effect.
The glitter effect involves adding a specially processed glitter haze to the wheels giving an extra dimension as the glitter catches the light for a truly dazzling and totally unique look.
Yet another classy and refined look is the increasingly popular two-tone effect, which can involve any desired color combination. Within the wheel market, I have been advised that probably the most effective combination of metal and anthracite with a color matching the vehicle gives the most stunning finish.
Shadow chrome gives the effect of an attractive metal finish, but at the moment the very latest fashion choice by far for style-conscious drivers is the hydro graphic look!
Also known as water transferable printing, this extremely clever option allows any graphical designs and pictures to be specially applied to a rim. The chosen design is initially printed onto a unique film and laid on the surface of water and activated. It then dissolves leaving the design floating on the top and then the wheel is slowly dipped through the film of water until fully submerged. The design will then follow the flow of the water over the shape and stick to the rim.
The wheel specialists I have spoken with state that there are no limits to the type of design or photo that can be used for the hydro graphic effect, giving those eccentric motorists license to create their own individual mark on their cars.
Another growing development is the inclusion of rim bands which not only add another unique touch but also help protect alloys from curb damage.
Manufactured from stretchy, high-strength silicone rubber, the red rim bands offer a striking contrast to the standard grey painted finish applied to wheels and are tear resistant, with five gripping ribs to stop slippage and fit perfectly around rims.
With so much interest in new and unusual wheel finishes constantly emerging, it is hardly surprising to learn that throughout Europe a growing number of tire manufacturers and wholesalers/distributors are recognizing the immense profit potential of today’s alloy wheel market.
On investigating I have discovered that alloy wheels as a complementary package for tires is now a standard in product portfolios for many enterprising companies, including the leading brands.
Tires have come a long way over the years with new tread designs and added features being introduced all the time, but I believe that the future could well be “wacky” tire and wheel combinations, which with the benefit of today’s consistently innovative design technology could get even more personalized. ■
John Stone has been working within the global tire industry for the past 20 years. In 2004 he launched his own company, Sapphire Media Services, as a business media consultant with clients around the globe. Stone also writes for tire and automotive-related publications in Europe, South Africa and Asia.
See more of John Stone's articles: