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Cheap Chinese wheels hit by dumping slug

The wheel deal: Australian car manufacturers have been caught up in a Chinese alloy wheel dumping investigation.

Anti-dumping duty of up to 87.8 per cent slapped on ‘unfair’ Chinese alloy wheels

General News logo1 Jun 2012

CHINESE alloy wheel importers have been hit with anti-dumping import duties of up to 87.8 per cent after an Australian government investigation into claims of under-priced wheels being sold in Australia to car manufacturers and aftermarket retailers.

Customs investigators found that the Chinese manufacturers were getting up to 34 forms of government assistance, including cut-price aluminium from government-owned smelters and a range of tax breaks.

The anti-dumping duties, which vary depending on the particular case, are an interim measure until a final determination by the home affairs minister Jason Clare.

Australian car-makers Ford Australia and GM Holden have been caught up in the action that was triggered by a complaint by Australia’s biggest alloy wheel manufacturer, Arrowcrest Group – the Adelaide-based maker of ROH wheels – which has suffered a major slump in wheel sales since 2003.

The impost on the Chinese-sourced wheels imported by the car-makers is at the lower end of the scale, at 8.2 per cent. GoAuto believes these wheels are made by CITIC Dicastal Wheel Manufacturing in China.

A spokesperson for GM Holden said the company would be impacted by the decision, but that it was too early to say what the full impact would be.

Like other companies, Holden is waiting on Customs' final finding and recommendations, which are due to be handed down next week, as well as the minister's response.

Under the interim measures, wheels from one of the world’s biggest alloy wheel manufacturers, YHI Manufacturing, will be hit with the maximum slug of 87.7 per cent, as will all manufacturers who did not co-operate with the investigation by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

The complaint was lodged by Arrowcrest to save its Woodville plant and its 140 workers from being put out of business by what it regards as unfair competition from the cheap imports.

ROH national sales manager Peter Hitchen told GoAuto that Arrowcrest had once produced 65,000 wheels a year in Australia, but that had fallen to 9000 a year.

80 center imageLeft: An ROH wheel.

He said ROH had once supplied all Australian vehicle manufacturers with both steel and alloy wheels, but now the company’s only original equipment customer in Australia was Toyota Australia.

ROH wheels have been made in Adelaide since 1946, when the factory was established at Woodville North by a British consortium.

The investigation was initiated in November last year, with the preliminary findings handed down in April. The duties imposed on the various importers range from just 2.0 per cent to 87.8 per cent, and will come into force on June 11.

Arrowcrest told the federal government that one of the local car-makers had used a price quote from a Chinese product as a lever to drive down the price of locally made wheels to unprofitable levels.

The company also pointed to declining Chinese wheel prices, even though the price of the raw material – aluminium – had risen 80 per cent on global markets.

One type of wheel supplied by a Chinese manufacturer to an OE manufacturer was undercut by a Chinese replacement to the tune of $40 to $50, costing Arrowcrest a supply deal that had been in place for more than 10 years.

The federal investigation concluded: “Based on this analysis and evidence provided by Arrowcrest, there appear to be reasonable grounds to support the claim that exports of ARWs (alloy road wheels) from China at dumped and/or subsidised prices have caused material injury to the Australian industry in the form of price depression and price suppression during the investigation period by undercutting the Australian industry’s selling prices.”

Most of Arrowcrest’s lost volume occurred between 2003 and 2007, before stabilising.

Australian wheel manufacturers were not the only ones to suffer a slump, with wheel importers from other countries suffering an even bigger decline in the face of the Chinese competition.

Although Arrowcrest brought the action, it was supported by two smaller Australian manufacturers, Dragway and Performance Wheels.

On the importer side, Customs and Border Protection officers received information supplied by importers Mullins Wheels, PDW, GM Holden, Versus Wheels, Primal and YHI Australia.

According to the official report, alloy wheel retailers Bob Jane T-Marts and Speedy Wheels “declined to fully co-operate”.

The dumping claim and subsequent action is the first of its type concerning the wheel industry.

GoAuto understands that many wheel retailers are unhappy about the development, fearing that the rapid price rise will adversely affect their businesses, even driving some to the wall.

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