Diko Sulahian- 15 years of excellence and counting
Recently, Highline Autos had the opportunity to interview Diko Sulahian, the owner of WTW Corp. just weeks in advance of the 2012 SEMA Show. Diko was gracious enough to share his thoughts on the challenges and successes his wheel company has seen as they celebrate their 15th year in this industry, and look forward with us at the direction he sees for high-end wheels in the future.
What was the first car you fell in love with as a kid?
A Trans Am, which I was never able to convince my father to buy me. He said, “it was too much car”, for a 15 year old. Even now, I get laughed at all the time, because I can afford all of these exotic cars, but I still have not purchased that one. Maybe one day I’ll get it for my son though (lol)! My first car was actually a Ford Mustang.
Tell me about the history of WTW Corp, how you got started, how the company has grown, industry break throughs, etc. WTW Corp. actually started 18 years ago. At first we acted as a wholesaler, importing and distributing lines of wheels from overseas manufacturers. But after enduring bad business practices, disloyalty, and even outright dishonesty from some of these manufacturers, we changed our business model 15 years ago. At that time, my daughter Giovanna was born, and creating her also inspired me to drop out of importing, and create and start my own line of wheels at the same time.
I believed there was a need for new inspiration in the wheel industry. What was available mostly consisted of tuner-type of brands designing for specific cars. The toughest part was to break into that market, and allow these folks to see how good other wheels could look on their cars. Once we did that, the rest is history. We are now celebrating being in business as a wheel manufacturer for 15 years, which is very uncommon. Despite the ups and down we have had in the economy, WTW has been growing each year, and maintaining the respect, and loyalty of our customers. We are very excited and blessed, and I owe it first to my staff. We have built a family at WTW by working closely like a well lubricated machine. Last but not least, if it was not for our customers we would not be where we are, so thank you everyone!!!
How much do you get involved personally in creating or approving the wheel designs?
I am involved from the sketch, all the way to engineering, and samples being tested, I can’t let go of anything, I feel lost without knowing every detail of my business. I guess it’s called micro-managing. My creative drive is obsessive. Perfectionism is an illness with me.
Tell me about your style and design philosophies
Design for me, is about what intuitively feels right. There is a logic and reason for all our designs, but it doesn’t have anything to do with trying to reach a mass audience or not. When I set out to make a wheel, I TRY TO MAKE THE BEST WHEEL THAT I CAN MAKE. The only goal is to make a wheel that I would personally want on my own vehicle.
Do you have a current favorite wheel out of your designs?
All of my wheels are my favorites. They are each designed with a lot of logic, and a reason for all the designs. This may be the reason why you see all of my dozen or so personal cars with two different wheels on each side. I love them all so much that I can’t make up my mind what to put on my own cars.
Who are some major influences that you admire?
God, my father Koko, Enzo Ferrari, Bill Gates…and last but not least Michael Fux.
You name your product lines after your kids. How did this idea come to you?
When you start to design your own company, you have to ask yourself, “What am I about?” Building a solid foundation for my family is what it’s all about for me, and securing my children’s futures. So, 15 years ago my first daughter was being born at the same time as WTW, and I thought, “What better way to express what WTW is all about than to name the designs after my kids?” I guess you could say this is how I show my love to my children. After all, who am I doing all of this for?
I notice that your wife doesn’t have a wheel named after her though. How do you manage to sneak past her into the house every night?
As a matter of fact, I did name a wheel after her. It was called, “Peggs”, short for her name, “Peggy”. It did very well, and was one of our best sellers, but you cannot sell the same design for too long, so we had to retire it. That’s not to say that she doesn’t still receive royalties though. As the saying goes, “Happy wife, happy life!”
What are some of the key differences between your wheels and those of your competitors?
My brand is luxury, something which requires taste. Our products are better quality, and much more innovative than our competitors’. I have my childrens’ names on the product lines, so it’s personal, not really about money, or profit for me. I feel that we have no real competition because my success is a result of loyalty. I am blessed to be able to be selective about who I do business with. We do not sell our wheels to everyone. Becoming a WTW authorized dealer is not easy, it’s like a badge of honor. After all, what other wheel company states on their website, “Buying wheels from unauthorized dealers voids warranty”? If your name is not on the list, well nobody is going to want to buy my brands from you. So, that’s the loyalty I provide to my authorized dealers, so that my customers know where to go, and where not to go.
Last year you unveiled the Supremo line at SEMA. How has the response been to that offering in the last year?
The response was amazing, and customers loved the technology and designs. Unfortunately, we underestimated the demand, and we kept running out of inventory, but this year we have geared up for it, and the shelves will be loaded!!!
What are some of the sales trends you have noticed in terms of your wheels, colors, sizes, configurations, etc
Well, nowadays, the bling-bling trend is out. After four or five years of me promoting the black wheels that I love, it seems like that style has really caught on. Last year, we sold 80% black wheels.
You have a long history of innovating and being the first to do new things. Let’s talk about what you’re doing next.
Yes, I have been known as a trend setter. There is always a future for new wheels. It’s going to take a lot for me to slow down, because this is exactly where I need to be. I introduced a new lightweight two-piece cast wheel last year that retails around $300 for a 20” staggered concave size, and $400 or so for a 22” version. The wheels weigh about 30% less than others, and this cost includes a chrome lip. Unlike other companies, I don’t set my pricing from the cost up.
I know what the market needs, and their budget, so I reverse-engineer my pricing. I come up with the right retail price, and I discount from there. We have done tremendously well this year, so we are able to offer an amazing product, an awesome design, in a set of two-piece wheels for $1,200 retail including a chrome lip. It was unheard of at that price, so it’s obvious our fan base increased to say the least. Meanwhile others are trying to sell a two-piece wheel for almost $3,000 a set, because they want to make quick cash.
This year I am introducing a RL (reverse lip) series lightweight that will be featured at SEMA. The wheel is a two-piece with a straight revere lip barrel, and the face or design attaches on the outer edge of the lip where the tire is, so it’s almost impossible to see how it attaches, and in between the spoke it goes straight through.
What will WTW be offering at SEMA this year?
You will just have to wait and see. So far, I haven’t disappointed anyone as of yet. (laughing) They don’t call me, “The King of Wheels”, for nothing.
For those of you who can’t wait until the SEMA Show to check out Diko’s newest wheels, go visit his website at www.WTWcorp.com and play around with his wheel customizer applications. You can take any of his styles and swap colors in and out for each component of your dream wheel from the face to the flange.
WTW Corp. 1.800.307.8708 or www.wtwcorp.com