To most automotive professionals, repairing specific parts is second nature; after all, for many, the word "repair" is in their job description. Up until very recently, the option to simply repair four very important pieces of an automobile - its wheels - did not exist. Instead, when a wheel was damaged, traditionally the only choice was replacement with either a brand-new (and expensive) model from the dealer, or a sub-par junkyard used rim. Thanks to the insight and perseverance of Daryl Robbins and George Herschman, their brainchild, Wheel Collision Center, has become one of the first companies to lengthen and add quality to the life span of the typical wheel.
"We uncovered a need in a previously unexplored market," says Robbins of the Wheel Collision Center's origins. "Prior to opening the business, I worked in a variety of fields, including engineering for Shell Oil Co. and a position as business development manager at INPACO, Inc., a packaging machine company (it was at INPACO that I met George; he was in charge of manufacturing and machine development while I was there). I had opened my own business, EuroCal Wheels and Auto Accessories, and it was there I discovered that while steel wheels were easily repaired and replaced, newer aluminum ones were not being fixed; rather, the only option at the time was costly replacement from the manufacturer, or a junkyard replacement that wasn't always as round or nice looking as the original. I got in touch with George, and after we did some more research it became obvious that not only was there was a definite need for this service, but at the time nobody else seemed to be doing it. So in 1990 we opened the Wheel Collision Center as a subsidiary of our original joint venture, Advanced Machine Systems (a company that designed and built packaging machinery)." Fifteen years later, the company is going strong and the newly discovered wheel industry is thriving.
"Our primary location is in Bath, PA," says Robbins, "which is only 10 minutes past New Jersey state lines. We do daily pickup and delivery to both Central and Northern N.J., and in 2005 we plan to spend even more time on the road to help get to know our customer base and expand the services we provide." The Wheel Collision Center performs formerly unheard of aluminum wheel repair, using a nationally patented process that straightens wheels to their previous condition without compromising roundness or integrity. The company also keeps an inventory of thousands of refinished wheels valued at over $1 million constantly going and coming thanks to a successful sales department. "Our staff of over 20 people helps make sure every order is taken care of on a priority basis," continues Robbins, "and they do a wonderful job. George and I are the two principals of the business, but the rest of our staff is equally as important. Kim Black and Gail Moyer in our sales office help customers on a daily basis, as well as Joanne Kratochvil, who is not only a salesperson but also our office manager. Ed Radowitch specializes in the repair and sales of aftermarket wheels, and our production foreman, Doug Wendling, manages the shop in the back. Most of our employees have a long history with the company, and their combined knowledge and expertise are a large contribution to the success of the Wheel Collision Center."
The Wheel Collision Center patented straightening process is the pride and joy of the company, but an accurate and extensive cataloguing system helps keep inventory accounted for down to the last detail. "We were awarded our patent in 1996," says Robbins. "We were part of the Ben Franklin Partnership program, which was a two and a half year long state-funded process that teamed us up with Lehigh University's Material and Engineering departments. They studied our company to help us validate our repair process by testing and cataloguing all different types of wheels. Between our patent and our testing system, we are now able to take a wheel and go through a process to accurately determine whether or not it can be properly repaired." Robbins continues, explaining that a main focus on wheels is what separates Wheel Collision Center from the competition. "All we do are wheels. Many companies get involved with wheel repair as a side thing, but not us. Our customers are comfortable doing business with us because wheels are our specialty. Quality is important to us because we know it's our customers' primary concern. Some other companies might be less expensive, but we're concerned about maintaining the integrity and finish quality of each wheel we work on. Our repair method is patented, and our computerized coloring system matches wheel color much more accurately than other, more generic processes. We're very accurate and careful in our work, and pleasing our customer base is our main concern." Customer satisfaction has brought Wheel Collision Center some deserved attention as well. "We've been recognized nationally in such publications as Popular Mechanics, Road & Track, Roundel and Car and Driver. We also receive a good deal of feedback from satisfied customers, some of which can be seen on our website, www.wheelcollision.com."
"Staying knowledgeable is a full time job in itself, but Wheel Collision Center employees go through extensive training to ensure they know exactly how to treat every customer," Robbins says. "We do mostly in-house training with our computer catalogue, available on our website (www.wheelcollision.com) with digital color photographs. As a result of our partnership with Lehigh University, we were able to develop a very accurate computerized catalogue to identify different wheels by every detail you could imagine, things that you typically wouldn't be able to do just by sight. All of our trained employees have all details available to them about every wheel in our system; they're experts on the proper identification of all our wheels with all they need at their fingertips."
"Wheel Collision Center has been a supporter of both local and national industry groups for many years," explains Robbins. "Being allied within the industry is a big part of remaining successful in the repair business, since it helps us keep on top of important changes or issues. We support the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) as well as AASP. We've been a part of the NORTHEAST trade show for many years now, and we're loyal members of the association."
As a final note, Robbins affirms that this is just the beginning for the wheel industry. "The repair and replacement industry for wheels is really still in its infancy; similar to other industries, there is a learning curve we must all work though in order to remain successful. From the customer's standpoint, at this point in time many of them may be getting their wheels worked on or receiving remanufactured wheels due to requests from insurance companies, which means they may not always be getting the highest quality wheels. Over time, it will become evident that the customer is entitled to a certain level of quality once competition starts to become a factor. Like many other fields before it, the replacement and repair of wheels is an industry with great changes in store." For further information on Wheel Collision Center, please visit www.wheelcollision.com or give Daryl and his crew a call at 1-800-292-RIMS (7467).
Tom Corcoran, 2005 Acura TL 3.2, writes:
"Hi - just wanted to say I recently had my Acura rims fixed by your company on Friday (at American Tire in NJ) and you guys did an outstanding job. I am not sure of the process you used to do this - is it just paint?
Very impressed and I am not an easily impressed person - nice job. This site is now forever bookmarked and not just because of the attractive model on the home page. Thanks again - I will spread your name as far as I can.
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