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Savings of switching one truck from steel wheels to Alcoa Forged Aluminum Wheels equals the average annual carbon footprint of an American household.
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Aluminum will be greenhouse gas neutral by 2030

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Alcoa's Dura-Bright Satisfying Customers, Increasing Sales
Alcoa Inc., the nation's largest producer of aluminum truck and bus wheels, is satisfying truckers' desire to look good on the road - and is increasing its sales in the process - with a product called Dura-Bright. It's a special treatment that preserves a bright shine on a truck or bus wheel without the need for special cleaners, chemicals or the time-consuming application of polishes. Just soap and water will do.

The wheels are forged at Alcoa's 1,368-employee plant in Cuyahoga Heights and are shipped to B&C Research Inc. in Barberton, where they are given a special patented treatment that bonds a coating to the metal. B&C is a joint venture between Alcoa and B&C Corp., which machines forged wheels and performs other metalworking services.

Alcoa began offering the Dura-Bright wheels as an option in 1999, and the increasing popularity of the product resulted in a doubling this year of the capacity of the B&C processing line, said Mark A. Holtz, Alcoa's marketing manager for commercial wheels and accessories. Mr. Holtz said the line's expansion represents an investment of "several million" dollars, but wouldn't be more specific.

Alcoa is the dominant company in the forged aluminum wheel market, but it isn't content to rest on its market share, Mr. Holtz said.

"Dura-Bright enhances our product mix and enables us to grow sales," Mr. Holtz said. "Dura-Bright is a game-changer."

Besides appealing to truckers, Dura-Bright is making headway among transit system operators. The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is a satisfied customer, said Douglas Seger, director of fleet management for the RTA, which is replacing painted steel wheels with Alcoa Dura-Bright wheels.

"The Dura-Bright wheel improves the image of the bus, and it eliminates the painting and other maintenance required with steel wheels," Mr. Seger said.

Although the aluminum wheel is more costly than the steel wheel, the reduced maintenance requirements more than justify the higher initial cost, which Mr. Seger estimated at $150 per wheel.

About 120 RTA buses are equipped with the aluminum wheels and another 105 buses will be delivered this year with Alcoa wheels.

Mr. Holtz said Alcoa worked on the patented process for eight years at its research center north of Pittsburgh before introducing it to the marketplace in 1999. Mr. Holtz said sales of the Dura-Bright wheels have grown rapidly each year, though would not disclose figures.

"We expect to increase sales this year by a factor of eight to 10 (from 2002 levels)," Mr. Holtz said. "We doubled output in 2001 and tripled output in 2002."

The end user, either an independent operator, trucking company or transit authority, will pay an average of between $75 and $80 more for each Dura-Bright wheel compared to a nontreated aluminum wheel. Mr. Holtz said that figure includes markups by dealers and original equipment manufacturers.

The Dura-Bright wheels appeal to a trucker's sense of pride in his or her vehicle.

"As far as truckers go, small fleet operators and individual owners are the most image-conscious," Mr. Holtz said. The market for Dura-Bright is sizable. There are about 250,000 owner-operators and 2.5 million tractor-trailers on the road in North America, according to Mr. Holtz.

Alcoa is expecting the North American production of heavy-duty trucks to remain flat this year after reaching 170,000 units in 2002. That amount would be well below the 300,000 trucks produced in 1999, but Mr. Holtz expects the industry to start approaching that 1999 level of production again soon.

"In 2004, 2005 and 2006 there will be big growth in heavy truck production," said Mr. Holtz, who expects to see more Dura-Bright wheels on the road in the years ahead.

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