Stylin' & profilin': Custom wheels shine at show
What better place to showcase new custom wheels than at the SEMA Show and International Tire Expo? That's exactly what dozens of rim manufacturers and marketers did last month in Las Vegas.
Sport compact tuner wheels were well-represented this year, as were more expensive rims for upscale, luxury sedans. "Probably the most significant part of the wheel business is the tuner market," said Rick Papelian, director, private brand group, for Enkei International Inc. And there was a wider-than-ever assortment of sport utility vehicle wheels on display.
Even tire dealers were in on the action. Discount Tire Co. Inc., which does business as America's Tire Co. in California, displayed two new Enkei passenger car lines available in 15- to 18-inch sizes: the nine-spoke CDR9 and the five-spoke RS5. Heafner Tire Group Inc. also displayed its wheel offerings, including its Pacer private brand.
According to Modern Tire Dealer's 2000 Custom Wheel Survey, three-quarters of independent tire dealers sell custom wheels. Almost 60% of their customers ask for a specific style of wheel. And dealers labeled "styling" as the most important criteria their wheel customers use to select a custom wheel brand, followed closely by price.
Here are the new wheel styles Modern Tire Dealer editors found on the SEMA Show floor:
* AEZ Wheels has imported several new wheels from Germany, says Vice President Max Nucci. The 14- to 18-inch Icon 5 is for import tuners, the 17- to 18-inch Aries is for high-end passenger cars and the 18- and 20-inch Icon 6 is for passenger cars and light trucks. AEZ's new Namib off-road wheel comes in 15-, 16- and 17-inch sizes.
* Alcoa Wheel Products is marketing its Alcoa Hot Shot DRW one-piece, forged aluminum wheels. The 16x6 dualie, designed for specific General Motors, Ford and Dodge pickup trucks, features elliptical-shaped hand holes.
* American Racing Equipment is targeting the SUV market with its 22-inch Z5 Epic, 18- and 20-inch Nooz and 16- and 17-inch Tyrant. "We have seven new styles coming out next year," says John Lucas, regional manager.
* APP Forged Wheels, a division of Aluminum Precision Products Inc., recently introduced the Top Runner, a forged one-piece wheel designed for light truck and SUV applications. It is available in size 17x8. ACARI Racing Wheels are available in 19-inch sizes for both performance cars and SUVs.
* Arelli Alloy Wheels offers the Sensei, a 16- to 18-inch passenger wheel, and the Bling-Bling, a 16- to 18-inch SUV wheel. Both rims are chrome-plated.
* BBS of America Inc. offers two new wheels: the CH passenger car wheel, available in 18- to 20-inch sizes; and the 20-inch RW SUV wheel, "which will be available in varying bolt patterns during the first quarter of 2001," says sales representative Julius Tenzo.
* Center Line Wheels' three new rims -- the Lexi II, the Challenger and the Archer -- target light trucks and SUVs. "We have more SUV wheels coming next year," says Bob DeVour, national sales manager.
* Cobra Wheels unveiled the Monaco, a passenger car and SUV wheel in 17-, 18- and 20-inch sizes. It can be powder coated any color, says Sales Manager Jose Franco.
* Colorado Custom has a new 17-inch passenger wheel called the South Park.
* Dayton Wire Wheels offers three new SUV wheels: the 20-inch 144-Spoke, the 20-inch OTD 144-Spoke and the 22-inch 180-Spoke. "Their load ratings cover most of the SUVs on the market," says company President Dan Deitz. "They're heavier-duty wheels."
* Enzo Luxury Alloy Wheels is marketing two new passenger wheels, the 18-inch xTacy and the 18- and 19-inch Elegance.
* Focal Race Wheels' SD5 is available with a silver and luster finish or deep, rich chrome in the following tuner market sizes: 17x7, 18x7 and 19x7.5.
* HRE Performance Wheels has available the 542, a twisted-spoke passenger wheel in 18- and 19-inch sizes; the 648, a seven-spoke, three-piece aluminum SUV wheel in 17- to 20-inch sizes; and the 440 series line, which contains five different two-piece aluminum designs "for the high-end, import tuner market," says sales representative Guy Atherton. "It's a step in a new direction for us."
* KMC Wheel Co. has two new SUV wheels: the Tank, which is available in 16- to 20-inch sizes, and Bofa, which comes in 18-, 20- and 22-inch diameters. The company's two-year-old Venom wheel also is available in a 22-inch size.
* Konig Motoring Accessories offers the six-spoke, silver-painted Verdict and its new Maxim line. Maxim has seven designs and is priced 20% less than the company's main brand, according to President Joe Schaefer.
* Mr. Lugnut is importing its new all-chrome Mazzi line that includes eight passenger and light truck styles in the 16- to 20-inch range.
* Modera Wheel Inc. debuted its new high-end, chrome-plated, aluminum Lezaro line for SUVs and European/Japanese imports.
* Nippon Racing's new 17-inch wheels -- the GT Genesis and Definition 7 -- are specifically designed for Asian sport compacts. So are Tenzo Racing Sports Inc.'s ZT6, Mean 6 and RS-5, which come in 17- and 18-inch diameters.
* Panther Custom Wheels is in the process of adding eight wheels in the 18- to 20-inch size range for passenger, light truck and SUV applications.
* Player Wire Wheels' new SUV offerings include the chrome 20-inch Polo T776 and Polo T778; the 18- to 20-inch chrome and silver-painted Messina; the 18- to 20-inch Polo Monarch, a chrome wheel with decorative "diamond" rivets that's also designed for passenger car applications; and the 17-, 18- and 20-inch Polo Wrath.
* Rial GMBH, a German wheel company, is making its return to the United States market with an as-yet-unnamed, 21-inch painted wheel for passenger car applications imported by Zisser Tire & Wheel.
* Roadster Wheels offers the Charger, a hot rod replica wheel that fits most bolt patterns, and the 22-inch Roadster wire SUV wheel that can be gold or chrome-plated based on customer demand.
* Ronal Wheels introduced the RT aluminum wheel in 14- to 17-inch sizes and the two-piece LZ wheel in 17- and 18-inch sizes. They are both designed for cars, small trucks and light SUVs. The LZ comes in a titanium version, "which is becoming more mainstream," says Gary Allison, Ronal general manager. "We also offer custom-colored wheels for a unique, distinctive look." Ronal will unveil several new styles next year, plus a new 20-inch truck wheel.
* Smiths Wheels, a South African manufacturer with offices in Santa Ana, Calif., and Grand Prairie, Texas, is importing several new products, including the chrome Serengeti 18-inch SUV wheel; the Rotor and Eliminator, both 17-inch passenger car wheels; Nemesis and Velocity, passenger car wheels in 17- and 18-inch sizes; and Twister, an 18-inch SUV wheel.
* Sport Metal Wheels displayed four new chrome wheels designed for luxury SUVs and light trucks. The Revolver, Balmer, Royce and Matrix are available in sizes 18x9 and 20x10. The Revolver also is available in size 22x9.5.
* Team Dynamics has five new wheels: the 16- to 18-inch Phantom and Diablo, the 16- to 20-inch painted Goodwood, a 16- to 18-inch forged wheel and a 16- to 18-inch mag wheel.
* TSW Alloy Wheels also is concentrating on SUVs with its chrome-plated Switch and Ballistic designs. They are available in 18- to 22-inch sizes. The manufacturer also offers the Hockenheim R, a 19-inch, silver-painted rim for passenger cars, and the Pindrive, a 19-inch, 12-spoke rim for higher-end automobiles.
* Ultra Wheel Co.'s Roca is designed with offsets and bolt patterns for light trucks and SUVs. It has a deep chrome finish in 15- to 17-inch sizes. Other light truck and SUV offerings include Sphere, a chrome wheel in sizes 16x8 and 17x8; Moto, a chrome wheel with sharp facets in sizes 17x8, 18x9 and 20x10; Bullet, a polished-finish wheel available in 15x7, 15x8, 15x10 and 16x8 sizes; Titan, a chrome or polished wheel in sizes 15x7, 15x8, 15x10, 16x8 and 17x8; and C-2, a chrome wheel in sizes 15x8, 15x10, 16x8, 16x10, 16.5x9.75, 17x8 and 18x9.
* U.S. Wheel Corp. has new "high-end, custom-made, built-to-order" 17-, 18- and 20-inch polished aluminum billet wheels, according to company spokesman Chuck Blayney.
* The Type 255 chrome wheel from Vision Custom Wheels is 22 inches in diameter. The company's Type 256 light truck/SUV wheel is available in 17- to 20-inch sizes with both chrome and polished finishes.
* Weld Wheel Industries Inc. unveiled its brand new Evo line that's designed for high performance luxury cars. The one-piece alloy rims come in 11 designs and range in size from 17 inches to 20 inches, "depending on styles," says Gregory Smith, Weld Wheel's marketing director.
Under the Weld brand, the company offers the Pro-Star XP passenger wheel, the Stonecrusher H/D light truck wheel and the Battlestar Hyper Single, "which is based on truck wheel technology but built much lighter." Weld Wheel also has new Cragar-brand rims, including the Mach 8 and Mojave light truck wheels, the Dragstar III, the Super-Trick and the two-piece SS Alloy, "primarily a muscle car wheel," says Smith.