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Rolling with the punches

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Rolling with the punches

In a bad economy, when fewer car owners are exchanging their original equipment rims for shiny, new custom wheels, you would think a used wheel broker like Billy Eordekian would be hurting due to lack of inventory.

Fewer wheels taken off translates into fewer wheels available for re-sell, right?

Not in Eordekian’s case. He reports that his company, Pico Rivera, Calif.-based LLC, has had no trouble sourcing second-hand rims. “I could spend myself out of business every month just buying wheels.”

While aftermarket custom wheel sales have been on the downward slide for several years, the used wheel business remains healthy, he says.
In fact, 1-800EveryRim, which ships used wheels all over the U.S., had its best month ever this past January.

In some ways, it’s a sign of the times, says Eordekian, whose father, Steve Eordekian, was an independent tire dealer in Southern California.

“We’re not in the luxury item business. We sell a necessity. The bulk of our inventory is the good, old-fashioned used rim that’s still accepted by the tire dealer. And the reason is that the tire dealer is selling to the retail customer, who is paying out of pocket. That customer will accept wheels that are of like kind and quality.

“The retail customer driving a four-year-old car already has a few scratches and maybe a little curb rash on their other wheels, so why would they want to pay for a wheel that’s shinier and more expensive?”


Changing landscape

Eordekian has worked around wheels all his life. At his father’s dealership, he supplied rims to body shops and insurance companies.

He went into business for himself in the late 1980s, when many different styles of OEM rims, including alloy wheels, came into vogue

“In the ’70s, everything was a black steel wheel. Everything from a Buick to a Pontiac to a Chevy was interchangeable.” ships out of a distribution center in Pico Rivera and drop ships merchandise from several partner warehouses.

Independent tire dealers make up the bulk of the firm’s client base (65%), with body shops comprising another 25%. Auto wreckers and individual buyers/end users make up the rest.

Amazingly, 90% of the company’s orders are for single rims.

Eordekian has seen a lot of notable changes in the used wheel business over the years:

1. Wheels coming off newer cars are bigger than their predecessors and more expensive to buy. “There are so many applications. It costs a lot more to have a decent inventory.”

2. More chrome wheels, which has played into Eordekian’s hands. “Being in Los Angeles, the chrome wheel capital of the world, we know all the sources,” which in many cases, enables 1-800EveryRim to provide next-day shipping.

3. Wheel reconditioning. These days, many body shops want reconditioned wheels, he says.
“Before the wheel reconditioning industry came around, we were at the top of the food chain. More than half of my sales went to body shops. Now there’s a reconditioning shop in every city.”

4. The rise of eBay. “Tire dealers know if they (pull) a hot wheel off of a vehicle they can go to eBay and sell it.”

A relatively recent phenomenon, eBay wheel brokering has created more competition for Eordekian, “but at the same time, I love it, because there’s no perfect guide” to selling used wheels.

Pressing forward, Eordekian says he plans to make it easier for tire dealers to sell him used wheels. (He buys the majority of his company’s stock from small, independent tire dealerships.)

Plans include a new e-commerce site “that will revolutionize the way all of us sell a used wheel.”

By “all of us,” he means the entire used wheel industry.

“I’ve always been a team player,” Eordekian notes, adding that it’s too early to discuss the project’s specifics.    ■

Making the grade: How Eordekian rates wheels

Billy Eordekian, president of LLC, says his employees are experts at evaluating used rims. They use an in-house grading system to classify the products.

A grade A wheel “looks brand new,” he explains. “An A-minus wheel has a small mark or minor scuffs.”

A grade B wheel “has minor scratches but is still a good wheel. At 10 feet away, you’d hardly notice anything was wrong.”

Rims with blemishes like a “faded or non-uniform coating and/or a lot of scratches” might receive a C grade.

“A grade D wheel would be one that has a ding on the lip or major curb rash, but is perfectly straight at the bead area... it will roll down the highway at 65 miles per hour and not cause a vibration problem. An F wheel is a rim that will cause a vibration problem, yet is repairable. Anything beyond an F goes right to scrap; it’s non-repairable.”

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