As you know by now, my role at Tire Review is to show you how to best leverage the fast growing custom wheel and UHP markets to build new business and increase real profits. That and to show you what’s around the corner.
With both of these points in mind, this year’s ITE/SEMA Show was huge! More important than the show’s size, however, is what was on display and how you can use these new products.
The show was so big, there isn’t enough space in the New York City phone book to cover everything. So here are a few of the hottest products shown in Las Vegas, the ones that will be driving this industry. Also, here’s a look at some of the innovative marketing ideas that will help you set a course in 2004.
First and foremost, is the new "Floater" wheel. Designed and patented by Scott Baker, this radical new technology has been licensed to MHT and will be available through all of its distribution channels.
Looking at this photo, you may think that the image is blurred. Well, the tire is blurry ®“ because it’s spinning and the center of the wheel is stationary. Baker has developed three unique custom wheel systems, the Floater being the third. He built the Floater based on the first two systems, which are still guarded secrets, and has plans for others that build on this system.
According to Baker, "You look at a wheel sitting still and say to yourself, ‘That looks great.’ Then as it rolls down the street, the style becomes indistinguishable. With the Floater, a driver can cruise at highway speeds but let others see how well the wheel fits the vehicle."
Currently, he offers four Floater styles. The wheel you see here is the "Esimem" which comes chrome-plated, in black or totally raw so that you can have it custom-painted to match the customer’s vehicle. This opens other cross-marketing possibilities for you to offer the paint job at an additional charge. The more adventurous may even want a custom airbrush paint job.
This wheel also uses an internal locking system to prevent the wheel face from vibrating loose. Floaters are sold with a specific base wheel to fit the specific application. One- and two-piece aluminum wheels are used to ensure the correct offset and bolt pattern. According to MHT, the Floater portion of the wheel is interchangeable, which could lead to repeat sales as new styles are created. Work a trade on last year’s style for a new Floater and you don’t even have to take the wheel off.
Currently, Floaters are available in 20-, 22-, 24- and 26-inch diameters to cover all of the popular vehicle applications.
The next item is one that we first told you about last year ®“ the 28-inch tire and wheel. The usual big dogs had their 28 inchers out and a few newcomers got off of the porch, as well. Here’s a new one from Sinister Wheel. It’s a 28 incher with 6- and 8-lug applications. It also boasts a 4,000-pound load capacity. This wheel is also available in 22-, 24- and 26-inch diameters.
If you have dealt with ultra large wheels in the past, you know how critical it is to offer products that are thoroughly safety tested. Make sure that no matter from whom you buy your wheels, that they meet accepted standards and proper load capacity. Your customers’ lives depend on it.
Currently, new standards are being developed to ensure that wheels, both foreign and domestic, meet certain requirements. We’ll cover this topic in detail as specifics become available.
Also, be certain to contact your distributor regarding any brands of "free spin spinner" wheels you may be offering or are interested in carrying. Recent events have led TruSpinners International, the patent holder of one type of bearing system commonly used today, to begin filing lawsuits against companies that copied the design without first licensing the technology. TruSpinners isn’t stopping at the manufacturers, either. This will spill over to distributors and even dealers. To find out more, log onto www.truspinners.com or contact them at 866-tru-spin.
On the street rod side, "restofication" (restoration and modification) was a big issue at the show. This FastForward Mustang has it all. Lowered stance, chrome everywhere and huge tires and wheels, all tucked and clean. This was only one of dozens of vehicles that were of this quality.
Remember, the owner of a vehicle like this wants a very specific look. Take the time to work with them and undertsand what they want. Even if your customer isn’t going to display at SEMA, their local cruise-in or car show is just as big a deal.
Kit cars ®“ like replica Cobras ®“ are another great opportunity. These cars are shipped without tires or wheels and can be built using a variety of suspension and brake components. All of them need specific tire and wheel combinations to meet the constraints of the vehicle and the desires of the owners.
This next item will seem out of place here, but you will quickly see dollar signs. You know how hot the motorcycle industry is right now.
Take a look at this rear tire. It’s as big as a passenger car tire. And it takes an automotive tire changer to mount these big hides. As a dealer looking to open new doors, why not look into what adapters or protective sleeves are available to fit your machine so you can handle this special interest market.
If your legs weren’t too tired from walking the performance tire and wheel hall, elsewhere in the Las Vegas Convention Center there was a lot of interesting displays of mobile electronics ®“ stereos, TVs, DVD players, security systems, lighting systems and the like ®“ that might open some other expansion doors for you. None looked like they’d require a rocket scientist to install. Some where even geared toward the DIYer.
On the floor just above the tire and wheel section, there was a plentiful display of customizing features for light trucks. Next month we’ll show you truck guys just what’s around the corner.