Before I answer that question let me just give you a quick update on some other things that are going on here at AACS (Advanced Automotive Consulting Services). First, our website will finally be up and running very soon. It has been a long time coming but we have been busy on some recent customer projects (at least we have our priorities straight). Be sure to visit it here next week. Second, details for the next Designer Night at the Races(TM) events are currently being finalized. The next event, our 19th, is a private affair sponsored by Lacks Trim Systems and open to design staff from the automotive OEMs. It is scheduled for Tuesday, May 5th at Kart2Kart in Sterling Heights, Michigan and you should get your invitations via email this week. It is also our first event where a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the a local charity – in this case the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. Events #20 and #21 are being scheduled for California for June as we speak. If you work for an Automotive OEM and want to be added to the invitation list be sure to let us know (email details are on the flyer). On to our question of the week (after the jump) ……………
So the answer to our question is (drumroll please)…Matthew Eash? What? You don’t know who Matthew Eash is? Thats OK, because I didn’t either. Eash was the third place winner of this year’s Steel Wheel Design Competition. This competition is presented by the Steel Market Deselopment Institute and Michelin which works with students at Lawrence Technological University (great video about their new design school here) with the goal of changing customer perception of steel wheels.
Eash took his inspiration from an electric guitar (you can certainly see that in the spokes) and American culture and features a theme we hear more and more about – allowing for owner customization (read about people’s opinion of Hynudai’s Veloster concept wheels here). The modular design features a lightweight stamped steel backbone with a concave design in front to show depth and accentuate its steel-rolled spokes.
The winner of the scholarship was Colin Bonathan. Bonathan took his inspiration from folding a paper model, sort of like origami for wheels. The design offers distinctive styling and classic lines to attract attention to the modern technology. Ron Krupitzer, Vice President of SDMI Automotive Market says that “This year, the students took steel to a new level” and “their designs proved to be low mass, feasible concepts that automakers and customers would love”.
The design starts with a cylindrical model drawn over a mandrel cylinder, and proceeds through several steps ending with finished stamping and welding. He demonstrated the luxury appearance of his design by showcasing it on a Chrysler 300. The press release indicates the significant gains steel wheels are achieving with automakers through innovative styling, higher profit margins, lower warranty costs, competitive weight and superior durability.
I know from my personal experience that consumers tend to like steel wheels just as much as aluminum wheels (contrary to industry legend). What they don’t like is the way steel wheels look. This design competition shows that there are technologies available that can transform a steel wheel to be just as attractive as an aluminum wheel.
For those of you who were looking forward to our planned posts on automotive lighting, there has been a slight schedule change. Please look for those articles in a couple of weeks. Next week we will feature some European vehicles not typically seen on US roads (if ever) as we travel back to the homeland for a couple of weeks.