The Wheel & Tire Industry Rolls With New Technology
|SEMA Vice President of Vehicle Technology John Waraniak (far left) along with a panel of experts discussed Advanced Vehicle Technologies at the 2017 SEMA Show. Educational seminars like this one are available for free to WTC members during the Show and at regional events throughout the year.|
When it comes to wheels and tires, the world experienced new technological advancements even before the industry itself existed. There was a time in history when a wheel wasn’t a wheel; it was just an unspoked wooden disc that our Neolithic ancestors used as a revolutionary tool.
Nowadays, tires are in the mix. As new technological advancements continue to roll in, the industry manages to keep pace. Just think back years ago when tire-pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) were first introduced. With TPMS came new installation procedures that included careful tire and wheel mounting/dismounting steps. Tire installers and retailers are now instructed about proper tire installation procedures, and end-users continue to learn about the requirement for tire sensors.
Educating Consumers Is Key
Todd Steen of Jackson Motorsports Group believes that educating consumers and those in the industry is key when it comes to new products and new technology.
“Consumers unable to see technology as a benefit will instead view it as a mandated cost,” he said.
Serving as a marketing sub-committee chairman for the Wheel & Tire Council (WTC), Steen has been in the tire industry for decades. Having supported Michelin as a dealer trainer for the past eight years, he recognizes the value in education when it comes to new technologies.
“There’s a tsunami of information coming our way,” Steen said. “Unfortunately, without the vision to educate and communicate technologies properly, there will need to be self-implied or government-mandated sanctions—to save us from ourselves. Without them, the proverbial race to be first will put the cart before the horse.”
Gavin Horlick of Voxx Wheel is the WTC’s technology sub-committee chairman, and he predicts that wheel and tire aftermarketers will rely on each other to learn about and adapt to new technologies, as they did when TPMS was first introduced.
“The WTC researched TPMS sensor technology and identified common practices across multiple vehicle manufacturers,” Horlick said. “After consolidating the information, the WTC provided its findings to member companies to implement into new designs. That integration of new technology was a significant concern to our sector, but after understanding the information, the adjustment created opportunity that was not previously present.”
Horlick has been in the wheel industry for more than 10 years, and he expects smart tire technology to be the next significant advancement to hit the wheel and tire market.
“Smart tires are being developed, and I expect them to be used within the next two to three years,” he said.
He predicts that the same efforts that were taken when TPMS was first introduced will need to be taken as smart tire technology becomes more prevalent.
“New vehicle technology is something that has been around since the days of Henry Ford’s Model A,” said Gregory Parker, WTC chairman. “But in the modern world, these new technologies are digital and exponentially greater than ever before. With sensors everywhere, reading everything, it is extremely important that a vehicle’s wheels and tires are compliant and complementary with these new systems.”
New Technology, New Opportunities
SEMA Vice President of Vehicle Technology John Waraniak believes that new technologies such as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) bring new opportunities for SEMA members as long as they stay ahead of the curve.
“You need to customize with confidence,” Waraniak said. “You need to know what your products, your modifications and installations do to vehicle systems. You want to make sure that the vehicle is in compliance with all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and regulations so the electronic speed control, TPMS and ADAS sensors, control units and software work the way they were intended.”
Chairman Parker reasoned that the freedom to accessorize shouldn’t be hindered by the digital age.
“We must adapt in order to stay relevant,” he said. “The SEMA WTC accepts that opportunity by having open discussions on these very topics on a regular basis.”
Such discussions are often had during WTC member-only events. For information about becoming a WTC member, visit www.sema.org/wtc.