Increased demand for aluminum - or 'alloy' - wheels is driving the aluminum market in Europe, according to wheel producer Hayes Lemmerz Holding GmbH.
Aluminum wheels account for about 28 percent of the light-vehicle wheel market in Europe. The level is around 55 percent in the United States. But demand in Europe is growing by at least 1 percentage point a year. This growth, said Hayes Lemmerz, has been stronger than expected - partly because of the trend toward special edition models.
'For example, when Opel decides to build a special edition model for its centenary, you might have to supply 100,000 additional vehicles with aluminum wheels,' said Horst Koll, vice president of sales and business development at Hayes Lemmerz.
Hayes Lemmerz also has carried out major work to reduce the weight of steel wheels.
Koll said today's steel wheels are about 20 percent lighter than they were three years ago. 'But with a normal black wheel, nobody is particularly aware of the work we have done,' he said.
Weight reduction is a big issue in the wheel market - but it is not the major factor driving the growth in aluminum wheel sales.
People associate aluminum wheels with upmarket cars, he said.
'Buyers may not be able to afford upmarket cars, but they can afford to specify aluminum wheels on a midrange model,' Koll said. 'Consumer demand is really driving the aluminum wheel market.'