DETROIT (Oct. 13, 2004) — The domestic vehicle industry is “rediscovering” the steel wheel as wheel makers have improved their product by making it lighter and stronger while retaining a cost advantage over alloy wheels, a steel industry association said.
The trend to alloy wheels appears to have peaked, and the selection of steel wheels is on the rise again for the first time in more than 20 years, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI).
Among the reasons for steel´s comeback are the use of better steel and improved wheel designs, the AISI said. New steels include microalloy HSLA, dual-phase and bainitic steels, which are high-strength and advanced high-strength steels. New wheels include designs that offer large ventilation openings that mimic the thin-spoke appearance of some aluminum alloy wheels.
Also influencing the trend is the fact that auto makers realize they can save up to $100 per vehicle without sacrificing quality or performance, the AISI said.
Among new fitments the AISI cited are on the Ford F-150 Lariat light truck and the Lincoln Navigator sport-utility vehicle, the Chrysler PT Cruiser and the Dodge Ram 1500 pickup. In addition, General Motors Corp. is replacing approximately 2 million aluminum wheels with steel. The GM steel wheel program centers on the Flex Wheel, which uses high-strength steel, a hardened bainitic rim and a dual-phase disc to create a structurally efficient backbone steel wheel with a spoke-like appearance.