Manchester based commercial wheel distributor MWheels has undergone a fundamental transformation over the course of the last year and a half. Driven by the acquisition of 100% ownership of the company by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) John Ellis, the company has invested in the region of £1 million in a complete rebranding of the company, the establishment of a subsidiary in continental Europe, and the appointment of a new team of executives, which has given the family-owned business the core competences of a much larger organisation.
Heading up the new team is Chief Operating Officer Matthew Mardle, who explained the company’s multi-layered approach to equipping the company for future expansion. “The rebrand and restructuring came about following our CEO’s acquisition of his partner’s shares in the company, and the consequential need to change the Motor Wheel Services and Chevron brand names with which we had been associated,” said Mardle, “but the move has also been part of a general restructuring, which highlights a change in the overall business strategy of the company. We have brought in key people such as Chief Commercial Officer Jason Mayor, Chief Financial Officer Clive Maudsley and European Supply Chain Manager Mike Cornwell to give us the skill sets required to allow us to expand internationally, whilst maintaining something of the family business feel the company has always had. It has been about creating the right team.”
The first part of the transformation process was a comprehensive 12-month rebranding exercise, which has seen the creation of a new corporate identity and the amalgamation of the company’s range of steel wheels, previously sold under the Chevron name, into a new family of products, and branded as Xsteel together with the company’s existing Xlite and Xbrite ranges of forged aluminium wheels.
Mardle, however, is keen to point out that the corporate rebranding exercise was about more than just veneer. “A key part of the process was about putting a stamp of approval on our products. There are many products coming out of The Far East that are not validated. A critical point about MWheels is the quality of our wheels, which are both certified and accredited. It was also perceived that there was a need to add value and service to our product offering, so the emphasis is now on making it clear that we can provide a comprehensive package of solutions for the commercial wheel sector. In short, we are a service provider, not simply a product provider.”
s a result of this approach MWheels has invested in five fitting machines to offer fitted units in which it can safely make sure that the right PSI is in its customers’ tyres and also added a new website explaining the company’s vision and showing a more vibrant and outward looking face to the world. In addition, the company has invested a six-figure sum in IT infrastructure to improve operational efficiency.
Central to MWheels growth strategy is a five-year plan to expand across Europe. This process was commenced at the start of 2017 with the establishment of a new legal entity based in Cologne, Germany.
Says Mardle; “We expect 2017 sales to be 20% up on last year, and most of this will be fuelled by growth in Germany. We will be establishing an office in Düsseldorf with effect from the start of 2018 and will be employing two additional sales people and an admin to join Frank Richter in developing the German market. From Germany will be able to supply within Germany in 24 hours and within 48 hours outside Germany. Of key importance is the fact that MWheels GmbH will be a separate legal entity in Europe, so whatever happens with regards to Brexit will not affect this growth. Products will be shipped from our main supplier Wheels India direct to the European market place.”
In Germany MWheels GmbH has already established a relationship with Pneuhage and will initially be targeting the Pneusnet Group within other regions of Germany. At the same time Mardle is now beginning to look at other key European markets such as Italy and Spain, and will eventually also look to expand into Eastern Europe.
In the UK MWheels supplies wheels and tyre solutions through a wide range of channels including all the main tyre manufacturers, key tyre distributors such as ATS Euromaster and TruckForce, trailer suppliers and fleets. “We are transforming the wheel and tyre purchasing process from two purchases to a single purchase,” explains Mardle.
In Europe, MWheels GmbH is currently primarily focusing on offering small batch solutions (i.e. sets of 6, 12 or 24 wheels and tyres), although, according to Mardle, the company will eventually also concentrate on developing meaningful relationships with the main tyre manufacturers, OE trailer manufacturers and fleets across Europe too.
“Overall, we can see our investment in Germany giving us the opportunity to double our business size,” says Mardle. “It is an exciting opportunity, but a major challenge too.”
One area in which MWheels has been a forerunner is the response to the potential impact of the EU Roadworthiness Act, which had to be adopted by member states by May 2017 and fully applied by May 2018. The basis of the Act is that it specifies that compatibility between parts and components, such as between wheels and wheel hubs, should be treated as a critical item and should be checked during roadworthiness testing.
Says Mardle; “The legislation means that by May 2018, wheels have to be certified products that are fit for purpose. This legislation is real, and it’s imminent, and it will mean that the scattergun approach to tyre and wheel buying will have to end. Come May 2018 there will be new stipulations on all commercial vehicle fleet operators to strengthen their purchasing, inspection and maintenance procedures and, as leading technical experts in our field, we need to ensure the industry is ready to meet these new legislative requirements without affecting profit.”
MWheels has taken a pro-active approach to the demands of the EU Roadworthiness Act producing a White Paper entitled “Evaluating commercial vehicle wheel safety – how to keep safe and stay compliant.”
The White Paper, which has been designed to further augment information which exists from leading industry bodies, gives an overview of the current landscape, a look at problem wheels and non-circumferential hubs, today’s legal implications should an accident occur and a comprehensive 10-point wheel checklist. It continues to outline three recommendations on how to keep a fleet safe including best servicing practices, traceability and procurement and choosing the correct wheel and fittings.
In additional to the publication of the White Paper, MWheels continues to organise an active campaign to raise awareness of the EU Roadworthiness Act. Meetings are being arranged with relevant MPs, and a Westminster Hall debate planned, with the potential for a subsequent Westminster Hall Round Table with key stakeholders.
Says Mardle; “Our approach is about being a quality provider and recognising the needs of the industry. It’s also about being seen to be a service provider with a qualified level of technical understanding. With publication of the White Paper, our job is not finished. In fact it’s just starting, and our aim is to get everyone on board.”