To the Editor:
I am unable to find any information in your Jan. 27 article "GM questions safety of custom wheels" that supports the contention that aftermarket wheels are in any way less safe than original-equipment wheels.
(GM Group Vice President for Sales, Service and Marketing) John Smith's statement that "some wheels and tires may not work well with a chassis. Some wheel-and-tire combinations we're not comfortable with" does not do so.
(Insurance Institute for Highway Safety President) Brian O'Neill's statement that putting larger wheels on a vehicle raises its center of gravity and therefore "clearly has a safety implication" is inaccurate because it is the outside diameter or height of the wheel and
tire assembly together that affects the height of a vehicle, not the diameter of the wheel alone.
Properly applied, aftermarket wheels are safe.
The federal government's requirements as listed in the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act provide a standard to ensure that.
Even if GM tries to distance itself from liability in the event of an accident, the dealer is covered by the insurance policies carried by the manufacturer and the distributor, which greatly mitigate the dealer's exposure.
It is certainly important that dealerships choose their suppliers carefully to ensure that the products they are purchasing satisfy federal and other requirements, that those products are installed on appropriate vehicles and that the company from which they buy them carries sufficient liability coverage to protect the dealer in the event of an accident.
However, it is inaccurate to say or imply that aftermarket wheels are less safe than original-equipment wheels or that dealerships should refrain from a well-conceived and responsible aftermarket program that includes wheels and tires.