Since its inception in 1996, Lexani Wheel Corporation (Corona, California) has been known for developing and marketing bold and technologically innovative luxury alloy wheels. While he’s quick to point out that he didn’t do it alone, the success of Lexani is primarily the due to the imagination and drive of 42-year-old company founder Frank Hodges.
“My father owned a car dealership, so I was always around cars as a kid,” says Hodges.
After leaving college, Hodges had to leave his love of cars behind and became a bank loan officer, a position that would give him the business acumen he would later need at Lexani. Yet, he longed for something more exciting…to be involved with cars again. So, in 1989 he opened a small retail automotive accessory store in Southern California with the help of his brother Mike. “I basically did it for fun, but I made money,” Hodges notes. “Later, I added wheels slowly and then tires, and it really started to take off.
With the growing popularity of custom wheels, Hodges started private labeling a wheel brand out of Italy in 1995, which he called Raptor. “In the beginning I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to be. I had different kinds of wheels…a tuner line, smaller stuff and the Lexani brand was the high end,” Hodges recalls. “Then, I decided I didn’t want to have regular stuff like everyone, I wanted to design some cool stuff, so I dropped the stuff I didn’t like and kept the Lexani line.”
So, in 1996 he decided to manufacture his own wheels, and opened his first location in Yorba Linda, California. From the beginning, Lexani was a different kind of wheel line, aimed at the luxury lifestyle market. “We didn’t want to build anything like what was out there; we made more edgy designs, and we started marketing the brand nationally.”
From the start, Lexani wheels captured the attention of rap artists, sports figures, movie stars and other celebrities because they were so unique and of the highest quality. Taking that “edgy,” over-the-top wheel design philosophy to the extreme, Hodges came up with something that certainly qualifies—a $250,000 set of 24-inch wheels decked out in 63,000 carats (almost 28 pounds) of cubic Zirconia
Though it might be somewhat of a contradiction, Hodges says the jewel-laden wheels sold under his company’s high-end Asanti brand are conservative. “They have a conservative edge; they’re for a more conservative person, with more high-end cars.” Accordingly, the wheels feature a “conservative five-spoke” design, rather than the swirls and lightning bolts favored by more flamboyant enthusiasts.