What do Consumers Want in a Wheel?

What Do Consumers Want in a Wheel?

DETROIT, Dec. 15, 2010 - How can automakers utilize styled Steel Wheels to reduce weight and cost and increase profitability? The Wheels Task Force of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), working closely with wheel manufacturers, trim suppliers and car companies, conducted consumer research to answer these questions.

The work has resulted in the development of two lightweight steel wheel concepts – one for passenger cars and one for light trucks. These wheels meet three major objectives:

  • They provide a weight competitive to cast aluminum wheels.
  • They offer higher profit and offer consumers the good looks they want in a styled wheel.
  • They provide the strength, affordability and durability associated with steel.

Study Shows Styled Steel Wheels Shatter Perception

A widely held perception is that consumers prefer aluminum alloy wheels. American Iron and Steel Institute found the opposite to be true. Consumers’ preference of styled Steel Wheels over styled aluminum wheels was a key finding from an independent study conducted by Burke Marketing Research. AISI commissioned the study to survey attitudes of consumers in order to estimate the relative value that steel and aluminum wheels can add to a vehicle.


  • Replacing aluminum wheels with styled Steel Wheels in upgrade packages will maintain option package demand and revenue.
  • Consumers consistently ranked Steel Wheels at parity with aluminum or higher than aluminum wheels.
  • While many respondents would not pay more to have one wheel material versus the other, a notably higher percentage of respondents said they would pay more to have Steel Wheels rather than aluminum wheels.
  • Steel Wheels were more readily associated with greater strength, weight, and safety.
  • Respondents associated lower cost with aluminum wheels, perhaps in contrast to the perceived strength and safety of steel.

This market research, combined with data gathered from car companies, has aided the AISI Wheels Task Force in developing a lightweight microalloy steel wheel for passenger cars and another for light trucks. Both alternatives to cast aluminum wheels offer cost and weight savings to OEMs, yet provide the attractive appearance that consumers demand.

Deanna Lorincz
Senior Director, Communications
Steel Market Development Institute
Tel: 248.945.4763