Like many other wheel builders and manufacturers in the US and abroad we have been sourcing our rims direct from china for a few years now. Having done so, like so many other well known brands do, we have had to deal with the oft used comment "so these are just china rims, right?" or something to that effect.
For a while I was really irritated by it and let the comments get to me but with time and experience i have come to understand the root of the comment, the hesitancy of the customer and the need to over simplify the situation.
First let me explain why the comment bothers me so much. The phrase "china rims" assumes that they are all the same product, coming from the same mold and all being of the exact same quality. It implies that china has a limited number of carbon rim manufacturers, or even just one. It implies that there is no deviation in quality if the rim looks the same. And it implies that anybody can just get the exact same product with relative ease.
This notion has been around for a long time, as big box stores have often bought, bottled and branded other products as there own. But anyone who appreciates good peanut butter knows that the rite aid brand extra creamy is no skippy.
First lets talk about the manufacturing. Sure, it is often the case that one manufacturer handles many different product lines. Giant dealers love to use that selling point that Giant is the largest manufacturer of bicycles in the world implying that they are by default, the best manufacturer or most capable of delivering the best deal.
If we break that argument down, shouldn't Mcdonalds make the best hamburger since they make the most volume of hamburgers? Have the best beef since they buy the most beef? of course not. Volume and buying power do not equal quality.
And if volume made the best or cheapest, shouldn't specialized be much cheaper? The big red S has a majority share holder by the name of Merida, a close second in terms of bicycle manufacturing to Giant. The Giant sales pitch implies that the consumer is somehow cutting out the middle man (which, ironically, is the bicycle shop) by buying from the largest manufacturer of bicycles in the world. If that argument were solid, then Specialized should be pretty competitive on price since they are basically a subsidiary of the second largest manufacturer of bicycles. The third largest manufacturer? They own Fuji and a number of other brands.
The truth is, its much more complicated and the big three "manufacturers" would be better described as "publicly traded entities whose major holdings are outdoor sports manufacturing facilities". Giant is Japanese, Merida and Ideal Taiwanese, and yet most bikes are made in China. Why? labor dollars.
So, our rims are made in china as are a number of others including the super cheap rims and wheels found on ebay shipped direct from china. In the race to the bottom, they are the big winners.
Are our rims the same? No. Did they come from the same manufacturer? maybe. but that doesn mean its the same product with the same level of quality control. Don't get me wrong, I have seen some of the ebay-sraight-from-china rims that are in fact pretty solid products for the money. but more often than note, the low price is reflected in a lack of quality control, aesthetic issues and wheel build problems that can and often do lead to issues down the road.
We worked really hard to establish relationships with specific manufacturers to ensure a quality product. What's more, we check each rim as it comes in, take care in building them, and stand behind the product.