Famous wheel maker struggles to grasp financial lifeline
11 May 2007

BBS Wheels, the maker of some of the most handsome alloys ever to grace Ferraris, Porsches and F1 cars, is poised to receive a desperately needed financial lifeline next month.The German wheel-maker has been in receivership since February and lawyers and bankers handling the company’s affairs are sifting through 35 bids for the company from all over the world.“We hope to announce a buyer in the next six to 10 weeks. We are talking to several investors and competitors and are very hopeful of securing BBS’s future,” said Marc Hornung, a lawyer with administrator Wellensiek.BBS has been trading under the protection of the German courts since 7 February and both BBS factories in Germany and their 830 employees and a joint-venture factory in China continue to make wheels.The main reason for BBS’s financial slide has been a relentless rise in the cost of its basic raw material — aluminium — which eventually dragged the company down this year. “There are other issues like management problems and other cost problems, but the basic business is strong,” said Hornung.Merchant bank Rothschild in Frankfurt has been drafted in to sift through the bids and help buyers perform ‘due diligence’ — check all the details of the business before signing a deal.As well as exotic car-makers such as Maserati and Jaguar, which takes the handsome Detroit wheel from BBS, the company has a long relationship with VW. The association of BBS’s multi-spoke wheel with the first Golf GTi helped make the company a household name amongst car enthusiasts.Last season five F1 teams used BBS wheels — Ferrari, Honda, Toyota, Midland and Super Aguri. And Michael Schumacher has won seven world championships on BBS-equipped F1 cars,About half of BBS’s business is with car-makers, the balance with aftermarket retailers and tuners.Most recently BBS has developed a revolutionary wheel-making technique, called Air Inside Technology, that allows weight-saving hollow sections to be cast inside the spokes. This technique is used on the latest Golf GTi wheel.As well as saving around 5kg from a typical wheel, it also stiffens the rim by up to 60 per cent, reducing damage.BBS was set up in the 1970s by Heinrich Baumgartner and Klaus Brand to make making plastic body panels and was based in the town of Schiltach. Together, the three initials gave the company its name.

Julian Rendell




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