The history of the autoparts industry has seen constant technological evolution in the pursuit of optimized product weight and cost, bringing both down without detriment to resistance, safety and durability. Various raw materials have been used in manufacturing wheels, one of the most important components of any vehicle.
At the start of the 20th Century, wheels were still being made from wood. Hayes Lemmerz, founded in 1908 and acquired by Iochpe-Maxion in 2012, supplied wooden wheels for the famous Model T Ford, considered a watershed in the automotive industry for its low cost and rapid assembly-line production. In the decades that followed, iron became the material of choice, especially in the production of wheels for commercial vehicles, given its greater resistance. In the 1950s, steel wheels became the market standard, and they are still widely used today, especially in Brazil.
Steel wheel technology had already been in use at FNV’s Cruzeiro plant since the Cast Steel Railway Wheels Plan (RAFF, in Portuguese) came into effect in 1979. In the 1990s, after the plant’s acquisition by the Iochpe-Maxion Group, heavy investment was poured into the production of tube and tubeless wheels for commercial vehicles, and the Group went after the necessary certification so it could start supplying to the large automakers and take the brand to a whole new level.
However, a new wheel technology using lighter, more resistant aluminum arrived on the market in the 90s, and it came to stay. Aluminum is gaining ground against steel, largely because of the aesthetic flexibility afforded by the production process, which allows for more eye-catching, modern designs. Originally applied only in passenger vehicles, the use of aluminum soon spread into wheels for trucks too. Brazil has enormous growth potential for this type of wheel, which is fast phasing out steel. In 2008, only 15% of light vehicles ran on aluminum wheels, versus 45% today.
Iochpe-Maxion became market leader in this technology in 2012, with the acquisition of Hayes Lemmerz and the subsequent creation of the Maxion Wheels division. In the early 1990s, the multinational was producing this type of wheel at various plants in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, with its Brazilian unit located in Santo Andre, Greater São Paulo.
Since then, Maxion Wheels has come on strong in terms of financial results, and channeled the lion’s share of investment into the construction of new aluminum wheel factories. The first of these was the expansion and modernization of a plant in Maniza, Turkey, in 2012, followed by the construction of the Limeira unit in Brazil, in 2016. More recently, Maxion Wheels has invested in yet another new unit, this time in Pune, India, which manufactures up to 4 million aluminum wheels for light vehicles per year.
With Maxion’s engineering centers worldwide, and particularly the facility in Italy, concentrating their efforts on further developing aluminum-wheel technology, the company has been constantly innovating toward a better product, improved production process, more modern technology, and fruitful partnerships with clients. But the innovations don’t stop there. New raw materials can also be used in wheel making, particularly plastic and carbon fiber, and the company has been researching and applying these innovations in its products. Traditionally, Maxion Wheels is always prepared for the future.