Pepa and Stuart Smith explain how their Wheeliner business is going three-and-a-half years after returning to the market, and how they are facing the future
It has not quite been reinventing the wheel; more putting a newly-refocused family spin on Wheeliners.
But Wheel And Motion is reporting good progress and business growth more than three years since its launch marked the return of Stuart Smith and his daughter Pepa to the world of Wheeliners after a slight hiatus.
This followed the sale in 2011 of Automate Wheel Covers, which Stuart had started about 30 years ago and had seen develop into a market leader in the UK and mainland Europe with the creation of his self-designed flagship Euroliners range for coaches, buses, minibuses, motorhomes and other large vehicles. He was aged 55 and admits being “pretty burnt out” after working hard to build the business with designs, finding customers and developing a network of 18 distributors across Europe, and he accepted an offer for his firm.
But a rekindled desire to get back in the Wheeliners’ game, after his former company under the new ownership experienced difficulties and was wound-up, saw him link up once again with Pepa, who worked with him for nine years when he owned Automate Wheel Covers.
But it is now Pepa who is leading the new firm, called Wheel And Motion, as Managing Director with Stuart as her fellow investor who has more of a background role but still offers advice, provides designs and helps liaise with the Taiwan factory that has exclusively manufactured Euroliners for around 30 years. Along with the Smiths once more taking control of Euroliners and the range’s development, there is a further completion of the circle as Wheel And Motion is based on the same site in Gomersal, near Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, where Stuart started his first Wheeliners’ business.
“The reason why we came back is because we believe in our product, we know our product. It works like it should do, it goes on easily and it lasts for many years,” says Pepa.
And the return of the Smiths to designing and selling stainless steel Wheeliners, primarily their own Euroliners that can fit wheels from 14ins. to 22.5ins. in size, is bringing dividends. The firm is profitable and is targeting further growth in turnover and profit in coming years.
“We are strong, we are here, and we will always be here,” says Stuart.
The coach and bus sector accounts for around 70% of the firm’s Uk sales, to manufacturers and operators, with the truck, van and motorhome sectors accounting for the remaining 30%. However, around 70% of Wheel And Motion’s Wheeliners are sold to customers in mainland Europe.
Although it stocks thousands of Wheeliners from many different international manufacturers, about 80% of its sales are Euroliners.
“Everybody knows us, knows Euroliners, knew the original company,” acknowledges Pepa. “However, we wanted a fresh start. So, we decided a new company name was needed, and came up with Wheel And Motion. Then we decided we wanted a rebrand and went with WAM Wheeliners, because it is a short form of ‘wheel’ and ‘motion’. It has taken a little bit of time but it is quite well known in Europe already.”
But Pepa and Stuart are moving the business forward with the original Euroliners and WAM Wheeliners brandings. Wheel And Motion has 25 current Euroliner set designs but also retains previous designs
“We are now stepping back into our original branding of the Euroliners. The company owns Euroliners the branding, and all of our logos are now trademarked.”
Stuart adds: “We stock every wheel cover that is manufactured, but we have an exclusivity on the manufacture of our products in Taiwan, and those products are the Euroliners.”
It was Stuart who asked Pepa if she wanted to come in with him and be MD of the new operation in 2015.
“She knows the industry and the products just as well as I do,” says Stuart.
“You can have a good product, but you need the service and the knowledge behind it. That is what we offer. We offer a complete package.”
The Smiths are looking to increase their customer and product bases.
“We are going from strength-to-strength. We are going exactly the same way we expected to go, and we are working hard at it. We are heavily investing in new designs and new products. We have got a fully-equipped, fully-stocked warehouse and we have regular containers coming in,” says Pepa.
Wheel And Motion covers the UK and the whole of Europe, including supplying companies in the Czech Republic, Latvia and Poland.
Pepa says there are a lot of new countries that are becoming minibus manufacturers, and Wheel And Motion has to be on the ball in anticipating demands and providing Wheeliners for new coaches, buses, trucks and motorhomes entering the market in addition to having stock for vehicles already operating.
There is also interest from companies keeping hold of their older vehicles due to being wary about the economy and Brexit, and wanting to ensure they still look good in the eyes of passengers or potential buyers.
“Our job is to manufacture a wheel trim that looks a million dollars, lasts a long time and gives value for money,” says Stuart.
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