HiPer’s ATV, UTV wheel lineup to benefit from added resources
The last few months have meant large growth and expansion for WELD Engineering Performance, a manufacturer of maximum performance wheels based in Kansas City, Mo. The company has made two acquisitions within the last year, making it North America’s largest premium wheel company.
“Generally speaking, business for WELD over the past year has been really strong. Our base business has grown substantially,” said WELD’s vice president of marketing, Chris Bovis. “We’ve averaged about 15-20 percent growth in the last few years.”
In October, WELD acquired HiPer Technology and its carbon fiber technology for off-road racing wheels. This acquisition opened another side of the business for WELD, whose product and customer base was different than HiPer’s. Bovis said keeping the brand’s identity unique was relatively straightforward because the market and distribution network for HiPer is so disparate from that of WELD.
“There’s a distinct difference in the customers, distribution and products, with HiPer being a composite-based product line and WELD being a forged aluminum-based product line,” he said.
The number of opportunities as a result of the HiPer acquisition continues to grow. WELD has been able to take its own technology and apply it to HiPer, and as Bovis points out, “there are a lot of opportunities to take HiPer’s composite technology and apply it back into WELD.” The company is looking into ways to apply HiPer technology to WELD as well as expand the HiPer product offering.
“Not just in carbon fiber, but also in aluminum and try to create a much broader product line for customers under the HiPer brand,” Bovis added.
WELD also bought CCW Forged Performance in 2014 and looks forward to bringing the road racing market into the WELD group. CCW, which specializes in high-level European sports car wheels, also introduces new business opportunities for WELD overall.
From a HiPer perspective, WELD’s purchase of the brand means another layer of resources and financial stability to streamline the production process and be able to satisfy increasing orders in the heart of the season. “We added a layer of not only resources, but support on product development and production, marketing, sales,” Bovis said. “Being able to give the employees the resources that they need in order to really grow the business.”
Already in 2016, WELD has released two new UTV wheels: the DM58 and the FA:15. The DM58 wheel is a combination of WELD’s forged aluminum technology. It provides a high quality center where the wheel bolts to the hub and incorporates HiPer’s premium carbon shells. “It brings automotive levels of finish and product quality, but still retains the integrity of the brand. It’s the best of what WELD does and the best of what HiPer does,” Bovis said.
The DM58 wheel gets its namesake as a tribute to the late Dalton Millican, an ATV racer for HiPer who lost his life in an accident a year ago. Dalton’s father, Clay Millican, has been involved with WELD for numerous years as a NHRA Top Fuel drag racer. Millican was very thankful and humbled by the company’s show of support. “There’s a long, really family-like tie between our company and Clay,” Bovis said. “I think he was very touched by it.”
While the release is still fresh, the DM58 has done well in sales. “Through our distribution to our dealers, we’ve had a really strong response to it,” Bovis said. “We’re really happy with how the launch has gone and how the initial take rate has been.”
In addition, he said that a portion of the proceeds from the DM58 wheel goes to the Dalton Millican Foundation.
The FA:15 is making its own headlines by not only being HiPer’s first 15-inch wheel, but also HiPer’s first aluminum, or non-carbon, wheel. “We see opportunity there to be able to tool-up quickly and get a product in the market cast out of aluminum first, and then be able to come out with the HiPer composite once we validate the market,” he said. “It’s a first-to-the-market opportunity that we have using the best materials and the best capabilities of both sides of the company.”
A typical HiPer timeline in the past included a lengthy design and testing process, which Bovis says could take as much as 5-8 months. However, since WELD has daily experience manufacturing 15-inch wheels, the company simply took some of its products and adapted them around the needs for UTVs. Now, WELD can place a 15-inch aluminum wheel into the market in as little as a month, allowing time for testing and feedback to apply to the later-made traditional carbon wheel.
The company has taken the material side of HiPer and merged it with the dedication to the integrity of the product that WELD upholds. WELD’s facility hosts a destructive testing lab right next to its engineering lab, so that it can be sure its products own up to its reputation as well as its competitors.
WELD integrates rigorous quality control processes in design, manufacturing and postproduction to ensure that quality is built into every premium wheel.
“We’re not going to let anything out the door that we don’t have confidence in,” Bovis said. “What’s allowed us to be around for 49 years is material, design, engineering, testing and validation that make us a unique business, and quite honestly, it’s the cornerstone of what we’re trying to do.”
In May, WELD hosted a well-attended ribbon-cutting ceremony at its Kansas City facility to celebrate the plant’s expansion, CCW’s integration and the company’s increased capabilities. The timing of the event was perfect, as a significant number of the brands’ professional racers were in town for various races and were able to attend. Overall, the Thursday event had approximately 200 guests.
As business strategy moves forward, WELD will focus on leveraging the network of professional motorsports racers and personalities that support the company in 2016. “Our strategy is to give the people who are out in the field the tools necessary to talk to the customers and show the product, and make sure we’re taking names, generating leads and feedback on what products could or should be in the market,” Bovis said.