The wheels are coming off the wheel industry.
Beset by reduced business from automakers, higher raw material and energy costs and cutthroat pricing, the key players in North American wheel making are grappling with financial problems.
The segment's instability caused a supply disruption for at least one General Motors product -- the Chevrolet Corvette -- in December.
Prospects for a speedy recovery appear slim, because low-priced wheels have begun to trickle in from Asia.
The situations at North America's three largest wheel makers illustrate the segment's problems:
1. Amcast Industrial Corp. sought Chapter 11 protection in December for the second time, just months after emerging from a previous reorganization. The company briefly cut off shipments last month to its largest customer, GM.
2. Hayes Lemmerz International Inc. is facing widening losses and a cash-flow shortfall less than two years after emerging from Chapter 11.
3. Superior Industries International Inc. is relatively stable and debt-free. The company's lean operating model has made it a textbook example of how to prosper in a cyclical industry. Still, the problems of the wheel industry have led to Superior's first quarterly loss in over two decades.