Influx of specialty coatings, colors will pose new challenges for collision shops
Las Vegas—California shop owner and Collision Industry Conference (CIC) Chairman Randy Stabler says body shop owners may want to keep an eye on the specialty and custom paint on the vehicles on display at the annual SEMA show, because they might become the OEM finishes on vehicles coming into shops for repair in a few years.
Speaking at the CIC held in Las Vegas, in conjunction with SEMA, in November, Stabler said three-stage pearl finishes showed up at SEMA shortly before many automakers began using them on new production vehicles. More recently, matte finishes “were all the rage” at SEMA a few years ago and are now being used by OEMs. Lexus’ new “Infrared” is a four-stage finish that is now on vehicles coming into shops.
“We have a lot of new car paints coming out,” Stabler said. “They slowly creep on us, but we’re confronted with these colors more and more. They’re more challenging. Along with the new colors, there are new [refinish] procedures that go along with them.”
That led Stabler to organize a panel of paint manufacturer representatives to discuss some of the new paints and refinish procedures they require.
Stabler asked the panelists about the relationships between the automakers and the paint companies when it comes to developing refinishing procedures for specialty colors. Phil Matisak, manager of color tools and systems for Sherwin-Williams, said it varies by automaker.
“Some manufacturers really want a very detailed repair procedure from us with regard to specialty finishes,” Matisak said. “They want samples, color formulas. In some cases, we provide videos of how we are preparing the actual OEM color. Others just want to know that we’ve got the color matched and what that color formulation is.”
All of the paint company representatives expressed the importance of refinish training on specialty coatings.
“When a painter comes into our development center to learn about our products, we dedicate time to specialty colors: the application, the proper way to prepare a let-down panel and all these techniques, so they can bring those back to the shop to not impact cycle time,” Dave Recknagel, North America customer service manager for AkzoNobel Coatings, said. “There’s a lot of variables that go into achieving consistent application. But the training is there to do that.”
They also all said they offer bulletins that include refinish procedures for the specialty colors, processes that may or may not mirror the steps used in the factory.
“We provide instructions on how to do it as a four-stage or a three-stage, whether you have to sand in between coats, whether you tint a clear that you already have or buy a clear that’s already tinted, etc.,” Mary Kimbro, director of global refinish color for PPG, said.
Kimbro said the availability of such bulletins is indicated when looking up one of those colors. But she and other panelists agreed that should be done long before the vehicle actually reaches the paint shop.
“Know what color it is upfront, during the estimating or repair-order writing process,” she said. “Look up the color ahead of time. Find out if there’s any special application procedure. Find out if it’s a limited use toner, so you’re more prepared by the time that car hits the paint department.”
Mike Carroll, new product introduction manager for BASF, agreed, noting that a shop’s distributor may not have immediate access to a specialty item the shop will need.
“If it’s truly a very specialized product, why would a distributor stock something that’s $700 or $800 a quart if they don’t know if they’re going to sell it,” Carroll said.
Matisak said just as with automaker repair procedures, it’s important for shops to look up the refinish bulletins and procedures not just once, but every time a specialty color is being refinished.
“The repair process may change,” Matisak said. “We may do something initially, but over time, that refinish process may be refined to hopefully become easier for a technician to make that seamless repair.”
Do the refinishing processes for those specialty colors require more time?
“Skill level and training is going to have a big impact on time,” Daniel Benton, refinish marketing manager for Axalta Coating Systems, said. “But there’s no doubt it takes more time for all these [specialty] colors. I don’t think anybody would argue with that.”
“I would have to agree,” Recknagel said. “There’s a time component and, sometimes, depending on the specialty color, a cost component.”
All of the paint companies said shops should not look for any end to the variety of new colors and finishes they will see coming into their shops.
“I don’t think it’s something to be afraid of,” Kimbro said. “Just like you have new substrates, we’re going to have new colors as well. It’s just part of evolution of where the industry is going, and what the consumer wants. The biggest part of picking out a new car is the color. So the OE manufacturers want to entice [customers] with the new colors they provide.”
Benton agreed, noting that textured finishes and matted clears are coming.
“We’ll see more and more of it as the automakers try to use color to differentiate,” he said. “We’re starting to see two-tones come back. You’re going to see more chromatic colors. So this isn’t going to go away. It’s exciting if you’re interested in colors. It’s actually a lot of fun, but definitely a challenge for us on the aftermarket side.”