RICHARD PORTER

It’s time car mak­ers gave us the wheely good al­loys for free

Evo India - - DRIVEN - @sniff­petrol

I’M OLD ENOUGH TO RE­MEM­BER WHEN

cars were avail­able with just one style of al­loy wheel. Gosh Grand­dad, this is fas­ci­nat­ing, tell us more about the re­stricted rims of the ’80s. Oh, OK then. Gather round, chil­dren.

Back when I was a kid, many car com­pa­nies had just one de­sign of al­loy, and of­ten it was op­tional. Most BMWs, for ex­am­ple, came on steel wheels un­less you forked out for that clas­sic, slightly dished de­sign with the ring of spokes around the out­side. Mercedes served up some­thing sim­i­lar but fussier that it fit­ted to sa­loons and sports cars un­til the mid-’80s, when the cor­po­rate al­loy be­came that at­trac­tive flat-faced style, as seen on the 190E 2.5-16. Jaguar had those ‘pep­per pot’ wheels they slapped on XJs and XJ-Ss; Fer­rari remixed the same ba­sic five-spoke de­sign; to fill a 911’s whee­larch Porsche gave a Fuchs. And then later a phone dial with only five holes. The al­loy wheel of the ’80s sport­ing car was sim­ple. One com­pany, one de­sign. That was it.

Now things are rather more com­pli­cated. Do you know how many de­signs of wheel are avail­able for, say, a mid-range Jag XE? It’s ten. The new 911 has four styles of al­loy, three of them op­tional. Even the Golf R has two op­tional al­loys, plus one of those styles in black. And that’s just for one model.

In it­self, this is no bad thing, though it might lead to twinges brought on by the agony of choice and it makes buy­ing a sec­ond-hand M5 or C63 or Cooper S slightly trick­ier if you’re de­ter­mined to find one with those wheels. But you can al­ways find a set for sale on the in­ter­net, es­pe­cially if you don’t mind buy­ing things that are pre-kerbed and/or stolen.

No, the only prob­lem with the pro­lif­er­a­tion of al­loy wheel choices in re­cent years is that it’s ex­pos­ing us to de­lib­er­ately cack wheel de­sign. An ac­tual car de­signer from an ac­tual car com­pany once ex­plained this to me, al­though he didn’t use the word ‘cack’. It goes like this. Mar­ket­ing depart­ments want to of­fer plenty of choice. So the stan­dard al­loy is of a particular size, and then there’s at least one up­sell op­tion, which is big­ger and there­fore looks cooler and more impressive. The de­sign­ers, be­ing car de­sign­ers, want the car to be on the big­ger wheels. They’d rather the big­ger wheels were stan­dard, but mar­ket­ing don’t want to give away what they could charge for, which is why the smaller wheel has to re­main. So, to en­cour­age peo­ple to pay ex­tra not to have it, the lesser wheel might be made to look a bit, well, lesser. Not com­pletely aw­ful, of course, but cer­tainly not as nice. Good for the de­sign­ers, be­cause it urges peo­ple to up­grade to the wheel they want to see on the car. Good for mar­ket­ing, be­cause an up­grade means a bit of ex­tra cash in the trans­ac­tion.

This was fine and dandy for a time, and that time was when peo­ple ac­tu­ally bought cars, ei­ther with their own money or a loan from the bank. But that’s not how new cars are shifted to­day. Those M3s and F-types and Cay­mans you see around, you can bet not one of them is owned out­right. PCPs have be­come the de­fault car sales set­ting, to the ex­tent that when I bought my Land Rover De­fender out­right for ac­tual cash money, ooh get me, the sales­man un­think­ingly tried to of­fer me gap in­sur­ance. Of course he did, ev­ery other cus­tomer is buy­ing an Evoque in a way that might re­quire it.

The prob­lem with a PCP, or a lease, is that try­ing to up­grade your al­loys does some un­wel­come things to your monthly pay­ments. I’m sure some peo­ple go for it nonethe­less, but it’s a hard hit to take for the sake of the looks, and un­less you’re wracked with van­ity you’ll prob­a­bly cool your boots on the fancier rims. In times past, the tempt­ing up­grade worked be­cause `81,000 on top of a `43 lakh car might have felt like small fry, whereas `81,000 spread across a three-year finance deal at to­day’s lolo rates pro­por­tion­ately warps the num­bers enough to be off-putting.

This is a prob­lem for car com­pa­nies be­cause now that peo­ple are re­sist­ing the up­grade trap, there are a load of cars out there run­ning around on the ‘less good’ wheels. If you’ve ever seen an en­try-level Range Rover Ve­lar or boggo Boxster on the al­loys you get for nowt, you’ll know what I mean. They’re not hand­some and they do the gen­eral image of the car no favours at all. As such, it feels like time for all car com­pa­nies to dig deep and give us the nice al­loys as stan­dard rather than con­tinue with this sneaky bul­ly­ing cam­paign for wheel upgrades that doesn’t tally with the way peo­ple get their ar­ses into new cars.

Ei­ther that, or go back to the heady days of my child­hood when an en­tire com­pany had just one de­sign of al­loy wheel. ⌧

The prob­lem with the pro­lif­er­a­tion

of al­loy wheel choices is that it’s

ex­pos­ing us to de­lib­er­ately cack

wheel de­sign

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