LAS VEGAS—A German manufacturer of aftermarket wheels has set up shop in the U.S. to enhance its North American marketing efforts. Partners Ruediger Hoeffken, Wolfgang Spaeth and Johannes Hermannes—owners of the German company RH Alurad—purchased King Wheels L.L.C. of Hillsboro, Ore., in December 1998.
"We needed a mutual marketing vehicle," said Mr. Hermannes, CEO of the company.
A year ago January, King Wheels moved into a new 30,000-sq.-ft. office and warehouse complex to facilitate the marketing and distribution of RH Alurad- and Artec-brand light alloy wheels in the U.S. and Canada.
Mr. Hermannes said the popularity of "plus sizing" up to 18-, 19- and 20-inch wheels makes the U.S. an attractive market. Plus sizing is discouraged by strict regulations in European countries, he said, so the partners decided to expand in the less-regulated North American market.
RH Alurad produces about 750,000 wheels annually with sales of about $100 million in Europe—using the brand names RH Alurad, Artec and LAG.
The company has three plants in Germany and also produces Fintec-brand suspension parts.
Mr. Hermannes and his partners' goal is for King Wheel to generate $35 million in annual sales in North America within five years.
Mr. Hoeffken founded RH Tire Sales Co. in 1973 in Allenden, Germany. He changed its name to RH Alurad in the early 1980s and subsequently brought Mr. Spaeth and Mr. Hermannes in as partners.
Mr. Hoeffken is CEO of the RH Alurad-brand and Mr. Spaeth is CEO of the Artec-brand. The three men share equal ownership of the parent firm.
At one time, most of RH Alurad's production was destined for original equipment manufacturers like Volkswagen A.G. However, about 10 years ago the partners decided to pursue the aftermarket more strongly.
The firm still produces some OE product, Mr. Hermannes said, and does custom casting for other brands which he declined to identify.
"Wheel-tire packages are our strong point," he said. RH Alurad and King Wheels specialize in selling wheel packages with "first-line" brands of tires, like Continental and Yokohama in Europe and Goodyear and Dunlop in North America, for example.
During last fall's International Tire Expo/Specialty Equipment Market Association trade shows in Las Vegas, the partners signed an agreement with Goodyear to market RH Alurad- and Artec-brand custom wheels in some of Goodyear's company-owned stores.
The alliance also gives added exposure to the Fintec-brand suspension parts, said Mr. Hermannes.
"We see the opportunity to sell additional performance tires," said Marco Molinari, Goodyear vice president of sales and marketing, North American Tires. Goodyear's agreement with King Wheels is similar to agreements the Akron-based tire maker has with several other wheel companies, he said.
"We've been working with them to look at selected markets to offer their products."