Real vs. Fake Wheel Guide

We are just trying to shed a little more wisdom into the aftermarket industry… so you, as an enthusiast, have a solid foundation on which you can then make your own conclusions and decisions.  That’s it.  So what we did was interview a couple knowledgeable people who work in the aftermarket/performance wheel industry.

Here’s what they had to say:

Mackin Industries, Inc.
Exclusive importers of RAYS Wheels and Yokohama / Advan wheels  

S3 – Does your company make original wheels, or knock-off wheels?

Mackin – We import and market ORIGINAL Wheels. RAYS Wheels – Brands include Volk Racing, Gram Lights, G-games, 57 Motorsports, and more…. Yokohama Wheels – Brands include the AVS line and the Advan line.

S3 – Why do original wheels cost more?

Mackin – Original wheels do not necessarily cost more.  It depends on the manufacturing process and the materials used. In terms of the wheels that we brand and market – RAYS Wheels – like Volk Racing, Gram Lights, G-Games, etc.. and Yokohama Wheels – They do cost more.  They utilize advanced planning, testing, material acquisition, and production methods to make their wheels.

I’ll summarize what it takes to make a RAYS Forged Wheel to illustrate the costs.
When it comes to planning – You have field experts within the wheel companies who research the market, identify trends or potential trends… who then work with their designers and R&D departments to develop potential designs.  From there, the designs move to the drawing stage where the shapes will be analyzed using advanced software like FEA analysis and rigidity analysis to make sure prototypes will test successfully.

Once a wheel is produced – RAYS tests their wheels to higher specific standards than what is required.  This is all verified with the government as well.  What a lot of people don’t know is that supplying to OEM requires the highest standards in the world.  It’s at least double of what is required by standards put out by governments like JWL, or TUV.  This means the amount of time and testing required drives up costs, but ensures a solid product. There are not many manufacturers that are able to satisfy these conditions and RAYS is one of them.  If a fake wheel maker claims to make OEM wheels, or has the testing to back it up… get a copy of a verified report.

From there, RAYS utilizes the most advanced method of manufacturing wheels – Mold Forging – to produce wheels.  The tooling to set up a new design is expensive, but it makes sure that they are forging and improving the original qualities of the raw material into a structure.  In fact, RAYS uses their own specially-developed aluminum, which has a higher tensile strength than typical 6061 aluminum.
By adding all of this together, you can see that there are significant costs that go into producing a wheel.  It’s something that requires a lot of investment and know-how to contribute positive parts to the market.  That’s why these wheels cost more – but you get what you pay for.

S3 – Why are knock-off wheels cheaper?

Mackin – Knock off parts are cheaper for many reasons.  If you’ve read the above summary about RAYS wheels (which is the most copied wheel manufacturer in the world), the knock off companies have cut out many steps to the process of developing wheels. There are no designers or planners and R&D departments that develop wheels.  In fact, it’s downright suspect that knock off companies apply lower tier manufacturing methods to wheels that were originally designed to be forged.  By cutting corners, reverse engineering, and using lower tier making methods – you have a lower priced product.

It’s capitalism at the core and at its greediest = There’s a saying, “In business, the best things in life are stolen”, however ethically, these companies show low moral fiber and lack of pride in what they produce… Do you want to buy from companies that steal at the benefit of having a similar product produced with low ethics?  It’s like buying a good from someone that robbed a house.  It really becomes the choice of the consumer.

S3 – In your opinion, do knock-off wheel companies steal business from ‘real’ wheel companies?

Mackin – Yes and no.  With regards to the ‘Yes’ part – a lot of times, enthusiasts that are looking for wheels at the best deal can be often mislead into buying knock off products thinking that they are real.  If you look at Volk Racing wheels – there are so many companies that replicate our stickers for the wheels on the down-low, or will use the same font and change a letter to fake out the unsuspecting buyer.  We lose customers this way through the misrepresentation of our product.

With regards to the ‘No’, since the wheels are sold at a lower price point, some enthusiasts may not want to spend the money or really don’t care about brands and the effort that goes into it.  Unfortunately then, that enthusiast is missing out on improved performance… and I think has lack of pride in his or her vehicle build.

S3 – Instead of a ‘fake’ wheel company knocking off a superior brand’s wheel… why don’t they just create their own designs… and at least sell original products, even if it is a lesser quality at a lower pricepoint? That way – they would meet a market demand/price… and be original.

Mackin – Good question.  There are several companies that engage in this type of business, and they do indeed have pride in what their brand stands for, and they are composed of real talented business people.  With the guys that engage in the fake stuff – it really comes down to the following reasons – 1) Low technical ability to make their own original wheels and unwillingness to invest in learning.  2) Lack of creativity to design their own wheels and unwillingness to hire people that can do that work.  It’s basically laziness, greed, and low ability that breed these types of wheels.  I’ve worked at countless trade shows where owners of knock off companies come up to our show booths and take pics of our wheels (yes I’ve kicked out plenty and you know who you are #@$@#%) and run off, ready to go back and make a fakie.  Do you want to buy from companies composed of people like this?

S3 – Is it dangerous to the health of this industry to have so many knock-off products?

Mackin – It definitely is.  You get an inferior product that is misrepresentative to the ability of our industry.  You see a knock off product fail or not improve the performance of the car – and you subsequently get enthusiasts that get disappointed or disinterested.  It’s a constant struggle, and sometimes the overwhelming amount of knock offs can ruin the original makers if they are not on top of their game.  We’ve seen other companies in this market go under – and we need the original makers to keep going and introducing positive products.  We want to keep the industry moving forward, not backward.

S3 – In real street driving, do you think knock-off wheels are unsafe? How bout in competition? Is there a safety issue, or is it more just an issue of them being heavier and therefore not ideal. If there is a safety concern, what are some ‘wheel failure’ issues that can occur to wheels that are not engineered/manufactured properly?

Mackin – You’re basically playing roulette when it comes to using knock off wheels for the street and track.  Just like in Forrest Gump, it’ll be like box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.  In the United States, there are governmental agencies like the DOT that call out safety standards for wheels.  However, in the aftermarket, there is no enforcement of these standards in America.  In other countries like Germany and Japan, you must register each wheel for sale with the government to be allowed to put the wheel to market.  That is why you see so many wheel brands popping up all over the place in the USA.  In some cases, there could be substandard or even absolutely no testing when it comes to these wheels… and there are several documented cases of fake wheels failing.
Those cases involve major cracking or disintegration of major parts of wheel.  This is unsafe on many levels.  Companies with quality wheels pass standards that allow the wheels to bend, instead of break in catastrophic conditions… in order to give the driver the best chance to survive.

The same thing goes for the track, however you hear some people on the track saying that they don’t mind replacing cheap wheels if they fail.  Is that the right way of thinking?  If you look at professional racing like F1, ALMS, Touring car, etc… there’s only a handful of consistent suppliers to these series – like RAYS, BBS, OZ, Enkei.  Not really much else.  It’s usually the guys that want to do it right and do it right the 1st time that win.

S3 – In your opinion, if you were to give wheel advice to newcomers in this culture… would you advise them to just keep their steelies or OEM wheels until they could save up the money to buy a legitimate set of quality wheels? Or would you tell ‘em to go ahead and buy whatever knock-off wheel they could afford at the time, have fun, enjoy the car, keep modding, and upgrade later as you gain experience & money?

Mackin – My advice is to do diligent research when modding your car.  There’s so much material available.  You can refer to websites, forums, go to performance shops, and check out performance magazines.  Read it all!  It’s a lifestyle!  It doesn’t matter if it’s performance products or wheels.  Be realistic with what you want, and make a plan on how you will build the car.  That might mean buying used, good wheels… or saving up.  But when you slap on a fresh set of real, nice wheels, it just makes you feel real good.  And isn’t that what it’s all about?

S3 – Does it make any good sense to spend high dollars on ‘real’ and/or rare expensive wheels, and then stretch a set of mediocre tires on ‘em with -10 degrees camber, and call it good fitment? Haha

Mackin – As a previous car show judge, I would take points off for having nice wheels and using crap tires.  Don’t half a$$ things.  There are a lot of good, solid choices in tires that aren’t crazy expensive like – Toyo, Falken, Hankook, etc.  Running some tire with a name you can’t recognize is just like getting a knock off wheel.  Low quality and low performance.  When it comes to how you sit the wheel/tire on the car – that’s your style.  All I would say is, keep it good looking and don’t try too hard (like -10 degrees camber).

-Edward Lee
General Manager, Mackin Industries, Inc.

—–

Enkei Wheels

S3 – Does your company make original wheels, or knock-off wheels?

Enkei – Real

S3 – Why do original wheels cost more?

Enkei – They take much more research and are regulated by much more rigorist safety guidelines not to mention the time of the creative process where it is designed from the ground up.

S3 – Why are knock-off wheels cheaper?

Enkei – With knock off wheels, there is substantially less (if any) testing that goes into the product, and there is no need to hire engineers… since the design is already there.  Physically making the wheel is the least time-consuming part of making a good wheel.  The time spent brainstorming and choosing a good design, and then designing, executing, and testing that wheel using the safety guidelines –that’s what’s the more time consuming & costly part.  At Enkei, we begin our next-year-designs a few weeks after The SEMA show with the final sample not being delivered to us until a few weeks before the following SEMA show.  So about a year.

S3 – In your opinion, do knock-off wheel companies steal business from ‘real’ wheel companies?

Enkei – I would say so.  Being in the industry, it’s not too difficult to spot fakes or decide who to trust when purchasing wheels.  But for people just getting into the scene, it’s much more difficult, overwhelming, and exciting all at the same time.  The key is to do your research, and get informed before you impulsively buy an inexpensive product.  Find out if it is really what you want/need for your build.  If the consumer is well informed before the time of purchase – then people who decide to buy a knock off anyway, were not likely to ever purchase the original wheels… so we don’t really lose a sale in that

S3 – Instead of a ‘fake’ wheel company knocking off a superior brand’s wheel… why don’t they just create their own designs… and at least sell original products, even if it is a lesser quality at a lower pricepoint?  That way – they would meet a market demand/price… and be original.

Enkei  I guess it would either have to be laziness, lack of resources, and/or lack of creativity – which all falls under the notion of just being out to make a quick buck, and taking advantage of the import culture.

S3 – Is it dangerous to the health of this industry to have so many knock-off products?

Enkei – It’s more dangerous if the consumer is not educated.  It’s a lot tougher to stop or prevent knock offs than it is to educate the consumer to know the differences between real and knock offs.

S3 – In real street driving, do you think knock-off wheels are unsafe?  How bout in competition?  Is there a safety issue, or is it more just an issue of them being heavier and therefore not ideal.  If there is a safety concern, what are some ‘wheel failure’ issues that can occur to wheels that are not engineered/manufactured properly?

Enkei – I have heard of several on-track wheel failures, but I’m not an engineer so…

S3 – In your opinion, if you were to give wheel advice to newcomers in this culture… would you advise them to just keep their steelies or OEM wheels until they could save up the money to buy a legitimate set of quality wheels?  Or would you tell ‘em to go ahead and buy whatever knock-off wheel they could afford at the time, have fun, enjoy the car, keep modding, and upgrade later as you gain experience & money?

Enkei – All I can do is speak for my self – I would definitely wait, no question about it.  If you can’t afford the most expensive wheels, which “expensive” doesn’t always translate to high quality, buy something in between with high quality standards and a history of making a long lasting high quality wheel.  In Kenny Powers’ words – “Don’t skimp and get the Vizio. Get what you deserve. Get the Sony”.  But at the end of the day, if you buy a knock off, even if it’s a good knock off, it’s still an imitation of what you really want.

S3 – Does it make any good sense to spend high dollars on ‘real’ and/or rare expensive wheels, and then stretch a set of mediocre tires on ‘em with -10 degrees camber, and call it good fitment? Haha

Enkei – No comment.

-Alex Nunez
Enkei Wheels

s3mag

Author: s3mag

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      • John Ruther

        Stop yapping Rota haters, if you really love your $$$$$$$ wheels just eat it or do some romance with it then shut up.

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  • alex

    Ok…so let me get this straight… what all you guys are saying that all those shop out there are selling fake wheels? The only brand that should sell wheels is ray and volks…?

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    Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely believe this website needs a lot
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  • http://www.eastcoasttyreandauto.com George McGowen

    Thanks for sharing your Ideas, a very organized approach you have!

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  • Remi

    Good article contradicting few of the above points. Case study ROTA wheels.

    http://custompinoyrides.com/2012/03/question-on-durability-of-rota-wheels/

  • Remi

    Good article contradicting few points mentioned above.

    http://custompinoyrides.com/2012/03/question-on-durability-of-rota-wheels/

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  • glenn

    Im that guy with a vizio… but i would only by jwl wheels. Would never skimp on wheels. At least I wouldn’t die from a supposed fake TV.. haha…

  • Mike

    Edward Lee lost me with his last comment on the tires. It kinda makes the point that if you think you know better than the vehicle owner what will work on their vehicle, you might not be as smart as you think you are.

    You say you deduct points at show because you don’t like the tire brand. Have you ever considered that the vehicle owner may have spent a lot of time and money, experimenting on which tire will work with the vehicle and provide the feel and performance desired? I used 2 of your named brands, one failed outright, with 2 tires literally shedding the tread, and the other only performing in a very narrow performance setting. I use an off brand tire, that performs better in the areas I use it. Does that mean the named tires are better, or worse? No. They are different.

    But the tone there informed me on everything else he said. And it pisses me off. As an owner and daily driver on a set of Volk Racing wheels, I don’t want to be associated with that kind of snobbery. I bought the Volks because they are beautiful and perform. But if I end up having to live with being associated with a bunch of pretention and fake elitism, I might just need to take them off.

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