By Scott Blair
TIRE REVIEW Magazine
New rides are hitting the streets, so hold on tight while we try to decipher the latest OE changes that affect our lives both in terms of profit and frustration.
First up is the most controversial the new Jeep Wrangler JK, which debuted late last year.
How could the off-road gurus at DaimlerChrysler mess with a proven formula? By that, I’m talking about how the bolt pattern and offset of the new model have been changed to the same 5-5, high positive offset as the 1999-and-up Grand Cherokee. Once again, this is a ‘dog’ combination that kept the aftermarket from ever building much to fit the Grand Cherokee, thus lowering its appeal to the consumer.
Now that this combination is on the Wrangler, the aftermarket can’t ignore the demand to produce all-new part numbers to supply the kind of wheels that consumers can readily get before the change. This essentially means more money tied up in inventory. It will literally take years for the aftermarket to be able to offer just a fraction of the styles, sizes and fitments for the new model. An example is the Tundra that came out earlier in the year. Very few parts were available until just recently.
I have found a few wheels available, like a set of 17-inch Ultras, wrapped by BFGoodrich All-Terrains. Mickey Thompson has a classic eight-hole design, and Panther has a few 18-inch styles available, as well. Don’t forget that WheelPros has a wide array of styles that are drilled to fit many of these odd applications.
Be sure to contact your supplier before telling the customer that you can get a particular style, even if the part number is in the book. It may be a few more months before the wheels are on the shelf. If you need to find a company making lifts for the new Wrangler, check out redrock4x4.com.
As for the rest of the Jeep stable, the Commander is riding on this 5-5, HPO combination, as well.
There is an up side to all this: Because the Grand Cherokee including the SRT, Wrangler and Commander all have the same requirements, it will be easier to plus-size the models that previously weren’t suitable for restyling and maybe build a market for yourself.
Next, another new face in the Chrysler group is the Dodge Avenger. This car wasn’t all that popular when it was first introduced years ago, which lead to its demise. This is a new product with styling queues from its big brother, the Charger.
The Avenger has a common 5-4.5 bolt pattern and high offset, which makes it an ideal candidate to restyle. Add to this a P215/60R17, a little more than 27 inches tall, and you get a perfect 20-inch plus-size opportunity. And, with a list price of around $20,000 and 30 mpg on the highway, this could turn into a very profitable platform.
In addition, Nissan has made a big impact with its introduction of the Altima coupe.
This is a two door with the interior room of its four-door sibling. Opt for the 3.5, and this is a luxury sports car. Again, common 5-4.5 bolt pattern and high offset will make this car a great candidate for 18-inch lightweight performance wheels or 20s for the urban scene.
And, now, on to the General. I don’t know who to blame more the person who thought this would be a good idea or the person who approved it for production.
First, the all-new GMC Acadia, which shares a platform with the Buick Enclave and Saturn Outlook.
This is GM’s “first crossover,” as they claim. I think its first attempt was the Pontiac Aztec, and they’re still trying to get us to forget about that bomb.
So, what does this generation CUV hold in store, you ask? How about an unheard-of 6-132 mm bolt pattern? Yes, 6-132 mm! That wasn’t a typo. It has a high offset, not that offset matters much here. How many wheel companies do you think are going to bother with this one?
GM’s use of odd bolt-pattern combinations has produced other poor-selling and poorly restyled vehicles, such as the Trailblazer, which has now been scheduled for termination by next year. I wonder why? Perhaps the 6-5 bolt pattern and high offset for which few styles were built. As a result, consumers rarely see the vehicle as a platform to restyle.
So, how can we profit from this? Remember that several of the wheel companies mentioned earlier can drill custom bolt patterns, so be ready when a customer needs this service. You can get the sale, especially when your competitors don’t know where to turn.
Moving on to the Pontiac line. Beware if you get an owner of a Grand Prix GXP in the shop, even for replacement tires. This car has a staggered fitment, both for wheels and tires. And get this: The wide tires and wheels are for the front. I checked the literature when I realized this, and this is indeed how GM wants the car set up P255/45R18 on 18×8.5 in front and P225/50R18 on 18×7 for the rear.
Now for the finale: GM launched the Cobalt two-plus years ago to replace the aging Cavalier. The Cavalier used a 5-100 mm bolt pattern and high offset for the entire production run of almost two decades. It was a good platform to work with.
Now, GM can’t figure out which bolt pattern it wants to use on the Cobalt. Last year, the LS and LT packages had a 4-100 mm bolt pattern and high offset, but the SS version sat on a common platform shared with the HHR, among others. It had a 5-110 mm, high offset. Remind you of the first- and second-year Dodge Neon?
For 2007, the LT package is arriving with the 5-110 mm setup. I didn’t have an LS to verify, but I would guess that GM is trying to bring harmony to the line, albeit two years later. Be sure to verify which one your customer has before ordering any wheels.
And, don’t forget to check one wheel to see if the OE TPMS sensors will fit in the aftermarket wheel before mounting all four.