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Fondmetal wheels: Track-tested tech and Italian design

Larry Edsall
Special to The Detroit News

Readers of a certain age will recognize the name Fondmetal for its involvement in Formula One racing. It ran its own Grand Prix racing team from 1990 through 1992 and then operated the Minardi effort from 1997 through 2000.

Fondmetal was founded in 1972 by Gabriele Rumi to produce high-performance automotive wheels. Rumi was part of the fourth generation of an Italian family that started casting iron in the early years of the 20th century.

Gabriele was a pioneer in the use of sand casting instead of traditional forging, in the move from steel to aluminum for automotive wheels, and in promoting his products through top-level auto racing.

Fondmetal left F1 after Gabriele’s death, but has continued to be a leader in automotive wheel design, development and production, now led by Gabriele’s son, Stefano Rumi, who serves as president and chief executive of Fondmetal S.p.A., which is based in Bergamo, Italy.

Today, the company no longer produces a variety of metal automotive components for various industry suppliers but focuses on its own brand of wheels, made using low-pressure die-casting technology and built to the rigid European TUV certification standards.

The company also is proud of its reduced environmental impact since installing its own solar electric plant in 2010.

Fondmetal is an original-equipment wheel supplier to Nissan, Toyota, Mazda, Fiat, Renault, Infiniti and Tesla. Its 139 employees also produce wheels for the aftermarket. It sold wheels in the U.S. “a long time ago,” said Stefano Rumi, and it re-entered that market last year in partnership with Suny Chung and his Design Infini group, which also does marketing for another historic brand, this one an American wheel company — Center Line, which is based in Santa Fe Springs, California.

Chung is a former chief designer for American Racing wheels who left to start his own wheel design and marketing company.

“Everything is being made in China now,” Chung lamented, adding that he not only hopes to bring production back in this country, but that perhaps “it’s time for some European influence,” and thus his fondness for Fondmetal.

Actually, while it is based in Europe, Fondmetal has become influenced by the American market and not only is designing wheels with American customers in mind, but is selling some of those same designs in Europe, especially in Germany.

“Concave wheels are not so common in Europe,” Rumi said, explaining that even the automotive aftermarket in Europe “takes a more conservative approach.”

Rumi said some of the finishes seen on wheels in the U.S. also are starting to sell to European customers. Fondmetal offers three series of wheels:

■9Performance —“Technology and lightness, suitable for a sportsman par excellence, who considers the alloy wheel not a simple accessory, but an essential component …”

■SuperTuning (includes 9XR Speciale, 9RR Speciale and 9XR SuperTuning and SuperTuning Concave subseries) — “Excellence and attention to details … born for car lovers who wish to distinguish themselves and are looking for exclusivity …”

■Style in Motion — “Tradition and innovation in this alloy wheels line which contains all the experience of our 42 years history…”

For more information, visit the website.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at