2009 is a harsh year for most of automotive aluminum manufacturers, especially those targeting at North American market. At first, Hayes Lemmerz, the largest automotive wheel manufacturer in North America declared bankruptcy on May 11, 2009. Hayes Lemmerz had been suffering losses from FY2005 to FY2009, and the economic crisis became the last straw that forced it to file for bankruptcy protection on May 11, 2009. The total assets of Hayes Lemmerz valued US$1.34 billion, the liabilities amounted to US$1.41 billion, the sales value declined by almost 50% in 2009. Superior, the largest automotive aluminum wheel manufacturer in North America, also had a very difficult time, and its sales value fell by 45% in 2009.
Also in May 2009, Metaldyne, an aluminum wheel manufacturer headquartered in Michigan, declared bankruptcy. It was acquired by Asahi Tec, a Japanese manufacturer, with US$215 million in 2006. Metaldyne's bankruptcy protection made Asahi Tec lost JPY31.97 billion as investment write-down, but did not affect the cash flow. As a result, the sales of Asahi Tec slumped by 74% in FY2009.
Some Chinese manufacturers also fell victim to the crisis, and Huatai Aluminum Wheel is among the most heavily hit. Totally engaged in the export to the United States, its Tai’an branch suffered sharp revenue decline in 2009. Moreover, it had accumulated huge debts during the high-speed expansion in the early stage. Eventually, it had to declare bankruptcy liquidation in March 2010. Most Chinese manufacturers of aluminum wheels provide products to the clients in China, Japan and EU, while small factories mainly export products to America.
China's automobile market developed rapidly in 2009, driving Chinese aluminum wheel manufacturers, especially large ones, to grow despite the market downturn. CITIC Dicastal increased its shipment by 22% to 14.38 million, securing its first place status by widening the gap with the runner-up. Singapore-listed Lizhong Wheel increased its revenue by 9% against the market trends. Lioho Machine Works, Taiwan's largest aluminum wheel manufacturer, achieved growth in income, shipment and gross profit margin.
In the EU, all aluminum wheel manufacturers are private enterprises, and they rarely publish their operation status to the public. RONAL and UNIWHEEL focus on the after-sales markets in Asia-Pacific, North America and the European Union, so they suffered bigger losses. BORBET aims at OEM market, with solid customer base, such as BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Ford that have excellent performance, so it suffered less. Japanese manufacturers have shifted most of their production bases to Mainland China and Southeast Asia, so the cost disadvantages are not prominent. In 2009, the sales volume of Japanese manufacturers was considerable, particularly in China, so Japanese aluminum wheels manufacturers did better than North American and EU manufacturers.
In 2010, aluminum wheel manufacturers got explosive growth. The shipment of Superior reached 2.36 million in Q1 2010, up 69% compared with Q1 2009; its revenue grew even faster by 84%; it is expected that the growth rate in 2010 will be much higher than that in 2009. In December 2009, Hayes Lemmerz announced that it did not need bankruptcy protection any more. China's Lizhong Wheel had even more outstanding performance in Q1 2010; its revenue in Q1 2010 was 114% more than that in Q1 2009; its profit in Q1 2010 surpassed all of its profit in 2009.
China has strong advantages in the production of aluminum wheels. First, the labor costs are lower than that of private enterprises in European Union. Second, China is the world's largest alumina supplier, and has obvious advantages in alumina prices. Some wheel manufacturers set up factories in the vicinity of alumina manufacturers, such as Sanmenxia Dicastal; or alumina suppliers set up their own aluminum wheel factories, such as Chiping Xinfa. Third, China is the world's largest automobile market and vehicle production base, and most aluminum wheel manufacturers are near automobile production bases or ports to save logistics costs.
The EU’s anti-dumping for aluminum wheels will not have much impact on China, because the EU market only accounts for 10% of the total aluminum wheel export of China, and the key market for Chinese manufacturers is North America. If the United States imposes anti-dumping measures, Chinese small and medium manufacturers of aluminum wheels will be struck heavily. In the long term, the United States will implement anti-dumping for aluminum wheels sooner or later, so relevant manufacturers should actively explore other markets to respond to potential risks.