By Ellen McKoy
WTC Talks Tariffs, Technology and The Stage
|Attendees engaged in discussion during the WTC Open Meeting.
The Wheel & Tire Council (WTC) has long been a clearinghouse for information on trends, technology, product development and legislative and regulatory issues that affect the market segment it represents. For instance, to assist in the development of new products, the council created the WTC Wheel Measurement Database, which contains wheel measurement information on new vehicles accessible through measuring sessions held periodically at the SEMA Garage.
Other tech tools include the WTC Measuring Kit, the “Wheel Care Guide” and the “Ride Guide.” Over time, the council has also hosted sessions at the SEMA Show on topics related to import taxes, including “Tariffs, Technology and Trends” and “Legal and Regulatory: Navigating the World of Import Tariffs.”
Concerns over restrictions on steel and aluminum imports and the complexities of advanced-vehicle technology continue to be top of mind. To help members gain a better understanding of both matters and their effects on the wheel and tire segment, WTC convened an open meeting at the SEMA Garage.
Open Meeting Dives Into Tariffs
Held in late February, the meeting drew more than 40 WTC members and nonmembers. The fact-filled and interactive day kicked off with a live webinar with SEMA’s government affairs staff, which is based in Washington, D.C. Attending from that office were Daniel Ingber, managing director of government and legal affairs, and Stuart Gosswein, senior director of federal government affairs.
“Tariffs affect many industry segments, but the webinar was really focused around the whole wheel and tire segment in particular and some of the challenges we’re facing,” said WTC Chair Tyson Boyer.
During the session, Ingber and Gosswein touched on the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement. They dove into the reasons why tariffs were imposed and steel and aluminum tariff issues specifically. Those discussions included two ongoing fair-trade-related federal investigations: Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 and Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974.
Section 232 affords the president the ability to impose restrictions on certain imports—in this instance, an overcapacity of steel and aluminum production that depresses prices globally and may violate U.S. fair-trade practices. The purpose of the investigation is to determine the effect of the imports on national security.
Under Section 301, on the other hand, the U.S. government is required to seek to negotiate a settlement with the foreign country, either in the form of compensation or elimination of the trade barrier.
“Daniel and Stuart did an awesome job,” Boyer said. “They gave us the Reader’s Digest version of tariffs from start to current state—a better understanding of the different tiers of tariffs that went into play and a better understanding of the trade imbalance. They also highlighted SEMA’s position supporting protection of fair trade but that using tariffs hurts importers, consumers and our industry. Overall, it was a fantastic session, provided great engagement with the audience, and we’re thankful for SEMA’s support.”
The group also took a field trip to Hansen VTF Labs in nearby Anaheim. The calibration facility specializes in correctly calibrating new vehicles equipped with advanced safety systems, known as advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). In addition to an ADAS overview, the group was treated to a demonstration.
“Changing a wheel package from the standard OE size or installing a six-inch lift changes the ride height,” Boyer noted. “The Hansen team simulated a 6-in. lift on a ’19 Toyota Tacoma. It was a successful calibration and a great day, with a lot of engagement, a chance to network and to look at all the opportunities that are added value with a WTC membership.”
|Founder of DUB, Myles Kovacs (right), interviewing WTC Chairman Tyson Boyer (center) and WTC Chair-Elect Todd Steen (left) at The Stage debut during the 2019 SEMA Show.
The Stage Returns to Vegas
While the world gradually regains traction in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, WTC is already planning for an encore performance of The Stage. Debuted at last year’s SEMA Show, The Stage featured daily interviews and conversations with some of the industry’s most prominent players, thought leaders, influencers and celebrities.
Held in the Lower South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, in the heart of the Global Tire Expo, the event was hosted by Myles Kovacs, publisher and founder of DUB magazine.
“The Stage was amazing,” Kovacs said. “I was lucky to be the host and interviewed about 16 different industry icons. It was such a great event, and I learned a lot from the interviews. Being in the business for more than 20 years, you’d think I know everybody. But hearing the stories, I got a new appreciation for the people in this industry and the passion they have for what they do.”
While details for this year are still in the early planning stage, Boyer said that the WTC has a roadmap.
“We continue to have conversations with Nathan Ridnouer [SEMA vice president of councils and membership] and his team, and we have established a task force,” Boyer said. “Our next steps are to identify whose voices and topics will be at the Show and the steps we need to take to ramp up. We are very excited that Myles will return as the host. He mounted an awesome job at our inaugural event last year and made it a success. He’s highly engaged and super knowledgeable, and we plan to harness that wisdom and share it.”
Stay tuned for details. In the interim, videos of last year’s interviews can be seen on various social-media channels, including the SEMA Education Facebook page, Instagram and YouTube.