Alloy wheels are made of alloys of lightweight metals such as aluminum, magnesium, or nickel. The automotive alloy wheels enhance the visual aesthetics and appearance of the vehicle by providing a sporty and catchy look to the car.
Initially, these wheels were available only for the high-end sports cars and luxury cars. However, with the growth in the industry, the automotive alloy wheels are now available for entry level budget cars as well.
These wheels are lighter, stronger and provide much-improved ride quality compared to the normal factory fitted steel spoke wheels. The automotive alloy wheels minimize the unsprung weight and result in better handling of the vehicles.
Alloys used to make the wheels- aluminum, magnesium, or nickel- are good conductors of heat and thus the automotive alloy wheels increase heat dissipation from brakes and thereby significantly reduces the chances of vehicle brake failure during driving.
Wheels are an integral part of the automotive industry and the exponential increase in the number of automobiles will drive the automotive alloy wheel industry. The use of automotive alloy wheels provides superior road grip, enhanced driving experience, and improved fuel efficiency.
These wheels are lightweight and corrosion resistant also which further increases their popularity. The market for the alloy wheels has been growing steadily considering the benefits it offers over conventional spoke wheels.
Alloy Wheel Industry and Market
The alloy wheel market is growing steadily and is expected to register a growth rate of 5.8% during the period 2016-2024. The replacement rates of the traditional steel spoke wheels with automotive alloy wheels have been constantly increasing due to the several benefits they offer.
The customers are also becoming increasingly conscious of enhancing the look of their vehicles which is a key driver for the automotive alloy wheel industry.
On the basis of sales channels, the alloy wheels can be purchased aftermarket or can be supplied by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) itself.
The OEM segment were the leaders and dominated the market due to higher vehicle production and incorporation of alloy wheels directly into the manufactured vehicles. OEMs have made considerable technological advancements in developing highly corrosion-resistant and strain-resistant wheels which helps them to restrain the aftermarket segment and stay the dominant segment.
Their dominance is expected to continue in the forecast period (2016-2024) and they are highly likely to stay ahead of their aftermarket counterparts.
The aftermarket automotive alloy wheel market is though more budget-friendly as it offers more cost-effective alloy wheels compared to the prices offered by OEM dealerships.
Based on the wheel size, the market is classified into the compact-sized, mid-size and full-size categories. The mid-size segment is the most dominant category as a wide range of vehicles are available in this segment with wheel diameter between 16 to 18 inches.
The mid-sized segment vehicles are very dominant in the Chinese and European market which further boosts the demand of the mid-sized alloy wheels.
There is a growing trend of the OEMs to downsize their vehicles form full-size to mid-size due to strict regulatory norms related to emission regulations, fuel economy etc.
Due to this, the mid-sized automotive alloy wheel market is expected to grow even further. The penetration of alloy wheels in Europe in the year 2000 was 30-35% and approximately 50% in the US and Japan.
In the year 2016, alloy wheels accounted for 53% of the global Original Equipment (OE) lightweight automotive vehicle market. The penetration rates for trucks and trailers remain low at 14%.
The highest penetration of OE alloy wheels is in the US where alloy wheels account for 74% of lightweight vehicle market and 40% for commercial vehicles.
It is evident that the penetration of automotive alloy wheels is increasing globally and the industry is likely to witness steady growth during the forecast period.
On the basis of vehicle type, the automotive alloy wheel market can be segmented into the passenger vehicle and commercial vehicle segment.
A passenger vehicle is a leading segment for the adoption of alloy wheels due to more production of these vehicle type.
The increasing awareness on the part of the customers to enhance the visual appeal of their vehicles has also increased the demand for alloy wheels in this segment. Geography-wise the market is segmented into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East & Africa, and Latin America.
Due to the higher production of vehicles in the Asia-Pacific region, the region is expected to maintain its prominent share during the forecast period.
The ease of availability, cost-effective products and the increasing government regulations for industrialization, especially in Japan, China, and India are expected to be the key drivers for the industry in the Asia-Pacific region.
Tips for Selecting the Right Wheels
There are plenty of choices for the customers in the automotive alloy wheel markets. The wheels come with different makes, models, and specifications and choosing the ideal one can be a tedious task. Some of the most important considerations for selecting the ideal alloy wheels are discussed below:
Purchase from Reputed Retailers
It is strongly recommended to buy from reputed retailers. They will provide the customers with only the original and good quality wheels which are safe.
Purchasing cheap wheels from shady retailers can be very risky for the safety of the customers. Hence, they should always purchase from a licensed distributor or retailer selling standards-approved wheels.
If the customers plan to only buy the wheels and use the existing tires, then they should ensure that the rim size is correct. A 16-inch diameter steel rim should be replaced with a 16-inch alloy wheel rim only. Changing the rim size will mean buying new tires and also impact on the ride quality and safety.
Care should be taken that the new wheels are not too wide than required. They can necessitate buying new tires. Wider wheels can also affect the fender, steering rod, and suspension elements. If a wheel reads 7J then it means a width of 7 inches and J is the shape of the rim lip.
Pitch Circle Diameter (PCD)
It is not possible to pick the right wheel size by just looking at it. Different cars have differing lugs and arrangement of studs. Customers should check the PCD before purchasing.
PCD is the distance of the wheel bolts from the center point of the wheel. A PCD of 5×160 indicates that the rim has 160 mm diameter and has 5 equally spaced mounting holes.
The offset of a wheel is the distance between the wheel’s mounting hub and the centerline. It measures the amount the center of the wheel deviates from the point of fitment to the hub.
Offset not only affects the look of the wheel, but it also affects the way suspension reacts to the wheel movements. An offset of 1-inch deviation from the original is acceptable.
Choose Modest Size
Customers should resist the temptation of buying a bigger sized wheel.
Though it gives a sportier look, it considerably compromises the ride comfort and safety. Bigger sized wheel and tire combination gets heavier which weighs the suspension down. This leads to a rougher ride.
If the customers use the same sized tires on larger wheels then the car’s tire will have a larger diameter and circumference which will affect the speedometer and odometer readings as the overall height of the wheel and tire combination has increased.
Benefits of Using Alloy Wheels in Car
Some of the most important benefits of using alloy wheels in the car are as follows:
One of the most important reasons for the customers choosing automotive alloy wheels is the aesthetic value and visual appeal they provide. The customers are becoming increasingly conscious about the looks of the vehicle and hence they prefer alloy wheels. The traditional steel wheels will never match the looks and the visual appeal of the alloy wheels.
The alloy wheels lead to decreased unsprung weight which leads to better traction on the road. This feature is important and it significantly improving the braking performance.
The automotive alloy wheels considerably reduce the wheel hop which is very common with the conventional steel spoke wheels. This reduced wheel hop leads to a reduced risk of brake failure.
Better Heat Dissipation
Alloys are better conductors of heat than pure metals. Using automotive alloy wheels provides the advantage of better heat dissipation. This helps to protect the lifespan of the tires.
Increased Fuel Efficiency
The alloy wheels are lighter than the steel spoke wheels and provides improved handling, ride comfort and maneuverability. Due to their lightweight, the car pulls lesser weight and it helps to increase the fuel efficiency.
Rust and Corrosion Free
Alloy wheels made from metal alloys are rust and corrosion resistant compared to the traditional steel spoke wheels. This ensures a longer lifespan for wheels and better performance.
Increases Tire Life
Tires get worn out faster when they get heated. The alloy wheels help to dissipate the heat better which helps to keep the tires cooler and protects them from heat-induced wear and tear. This increases the lifespan of tires. The alloy wheels being lighter also reduce the expenses on tire maintenance.
Most Popular Wheel Designs
Some of the most popular and promising alloy wheel design is depicted below:
American Racing Torq Thrust
It is a 5-spoke alloy wheel made from aluminum. The tapered parabolic designed wheel decreases the wheel mass and increases brake cooling. The wheel size varies from 14-inches to 20-inches. This wheel was designed for drag racing in the 1950s.
This 5-spoke alloy wheel is manufactured by blending MAT and flow-forming forging technology to provide better results. It is coated with a synthetic coating to offer protection in all weather conditions.
BBS Super RS
The multi-spoke wheel is very craftily designed. In manufacturing the aluminum stock is not cut but forged to maintain the strength and durability.
The wheel is made from a single aluminum block to forge into this 5-spoke wheel. It is available in two colors-glare silver and flat black. It costs over $1000. These wheels pass stringent JWL quality procedures and provide unmatched quality.
Outdated and Ugly Wheels
Not all the alloy wheels are designed to perfection. Sometimes the design turns out to be shabby. Some of the ugliest and shabby designed alloy wheels are depicted below:
Chevy Cavalier Z24
The Chevy Cavalier Z24 alloy wheels manufactured by General Motors was completely unimpressive and highly disappointing. The appearance is similar to square piece tile which fails to inspire. The fact that these were OEM alloy wheels make them even more disappointing.
The Enkei Spider were limited edition alloy wheels from Enkei. Though these are not available in the market anymore, the design was a big letdown.
Asanti Skin Series
The Asanti Skin Series wheel is very poorly designed. Asanti has put Ostrich leather in the wheels which is very unimpressive, to say the least.
The alloy wheels manufactured by Forgatio Parlaro follow the unique 3-spoke wheel design. The combination of 2 line and 1 big spoke is hugely unimpressive.
The Swangas rims are not only a design hazard, but it also poses danger to the driver and the passerby.
Popular Cars Using Alloy Wheels
The use of automotive alloy wheels is increasing steadily. Most of the car brands are moving towards the alloy wheels. Audi and BMW are two of the most prominent automobile manufacturers that are making use of the alloy wheels.
These cars come fitted with the OEM alloy wheels which provide better compatibility with the vehicle. Not only these alloy wheels enhance the look and visual appeal of the cars, but they also provide numerous other benefits.
The wheels are lighter compared to the normal steel spoked wheels which increases the traction and maneuverability of the vehicle. Being lightweight it also contributes towards increasing the fuel efficiency of the vehicle.
The automotive alloy wheels are made of alloys which are a better conductor of heat, thus they dissipate the heat better. This results in protecting the wear and tear of the tire induced by heat and lengthens their lifespan.