Stylized Concepts Unveiled at Steel Market Development Institute’s Steel Wheels Design Competition

DETROIT, March 17, 2011 – The Wheels Task Force of the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), Michelin and Lawrence Technological University (LTU) announced the scholarship winners of the steel wheel design competition at the program’s unveiling this week at the LTU campus.

Colin Bonathan, a sophomore, won first place and was awarded a $2,500 scholarship. Second place went to senior Chris Nichols, who received a $1,500 scholarship, and Matthew Eash, a sophomore, placed third and was awarded a scholarship of $1,000. In addition, nine students who participated in the competition received honorable mentions and were awarded $100 each.

“The steel wheel design competition presented student designers with a rare opportunity to influence the growing automotive styled steel wheel market,” Ron Krupitzer, vice president, automotive market, SMDI said. “This year, the students took steel to a new level in terms of lightweighting and their designs proved to be low mass, feasible concepts that automakers and customers would love.”

Students designed wheels for luxury cars and were judged by a panel of steel industry experts, automotive designers and wheel manufacturers on the following criteria: material celebration; changing customer perception of steel wheels in the automotive industry; creativity and feasibility in a real-world design; and concept.

The winning wheel designs included: 

Bonathan – A modern wheel designed for a 2011 Chrysler 300, includes a cylindrical shape that offers more character than today’s flat blanks. Based on a paper model he designed as a solution on how to simulate folding steel, the wheel features high-strength stainless steel to achieve a lightweight design; 

Nichols – The winner of last year’s competition at LTU, Nichol’s wheel was designed for the luxury electric car, Fisker Karma. His wheel, inspired by a heated coffee mug, is designed to celebrate electric cars and integrates heatsinks on the spoke, drawing heat from the hubmotors and electronic components for a functional and appealing design. With heat reactive paint, the wheel creates an eco-friendly identity at night by creating a subtle glow; and 

Eash – Inspired from an electric guitar and American culture, Eash’s modular design features a lightweight, steel stamped backbone with a concave side in front to show depth and accentuate its steel-rolled spokes. Designed for a Lincoln MKR concept, the wheel is integrated for balance and allows for owner customization without compromising strength.

The steel wheels design competition highlighted the significant gains steel wheels are achieving with automakers through innovative styling, higher profit margins, lower warranty costs, competitive weight and superior durability.

The Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute, grows and maintains the use of steel through strategies that promote cost-effective solutions in the automotive, construction and container markets, as well as for new-growth opportunities in emerging steel markets. For more news or information, visit

SMDI’s Automotive Application Council investors:
• AK Steel Corporation
• ArcelorMittal Dofasco
• ArcelorMittal USA
• Nucor Corporation
• ThyssenKrupp Steel USA, LLC
• United States Steel Corporation

Editor’s note: For electronic images of the students and / or event, please contact Deanna Lorincz.

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