There is nothing superficial about automotive paint – at least not when it comes to the crucial matter of making potential customers actually want to buy a car. At that point the ‘look’ of a car can make all the difference to whether they might want to consider purchasing or cross it off their list.

This is a fact of which carmakers are acutely aware and is summed up by Anton Busuttil, paint area manager at GM’s Orion Assembly plant, interviewed in this issue of APS. As he quite simply says all the people who work in an automotive paintshop need to be aware that what they do can “directly impact the customer.” In the case of Busuttil and GM the aspect of that awareness highlighted here is the stringent attention to detail and procedural discipline that paintshop personnel need to bring to their jobs.

But elsewhere – for instance in the profiles of the new Nissan paintshop at its Smyrna plant in the US and the equally new BMW Brilliance installation at Shenyang, China – something else is evident. This again can be simply put even though it is complex and challenging to achieve in practice – that car makers must now aim to achieve nothing less than world class standards of excellence in the operation of and final product quality achieved by their paintshops. The relevant words here are those of David Johnson, paint shop manager at Smyrna, as he summarises Nissan’s ambitions for the facility: “We are going to be the global benchmark for quality.”

But, of course, quality in terms of paint finish is not the only such benchmark which today’s automotive paintshops must aim to achieve. Now any reference to performance standards cannot avoid at least two other terms – ‘energyefficiency’ and ‘sustainability’. Both feature large at the BMW Brilliance plant, where an innovative approach to specification and costing right at the start of the project has proven crucial to helping it achieve its objectives.

That fact arguably illustrates the most fundamental lesson to be learned and then applied in the whole sequence of specification, costing, design, construction and operation of automotive paintshops. It is that achieving world class standards of performance requires a holistic approach in which absolutely everything is considered and nothing left to chance. Only when that is the case will all investment in the sophisticated and expensive technology that must necessarily also be deployed prove worthwhile.