In the present tough economic climate, the paintshop community could be forgiven for concentrating on cost cutting, streamlining operations and even looking for opportunities to ‘manualise’ some paint operations.

As equipment budgets tighten and line workers are laid off from assembly work, they could possibly be available to replace ageing paint line equipment. A shocking thought to many – the notion of going backwards in automation.

But the reality is that new paintshop installations are not being cut back and technical innovation in the paint process is moving at a faster rate then ever. This, coupled with the extraordinary advances made in materials in the last few years, has protected the paintshop area against the harsh winds of the current fiscal storm.

When I asked paintshop managers what would they buy, given a ‘dream budget’, none of them seemed to have specific equipment on their wish list. They all answered that they would like some more automation and of course, more time for their part of the carmaking process.

Customer colour choices and expectations

Silver has once again dominated as the world’s most popular car color but other shades are gaining ground, especially in North America. This is according to an annual automotive color popularity survey carried out by PPG Industries. While silver is still the most popular car color globally – capturing 20 percent in North America, 35 percent in Europe and 37 percent in Asia Pacific – white and black are close on its heels in North America, tying silver in popularity in certain vehicle segments.

These figures show the rise of the car park in the Asia Pacific and India, where silver and white are cool colours in both senses of the word, and also that metallics are no longer seen as flashy and are becoming more of a no cost option in all but the cheapest segments. Customers have been ‘spoilt’ by exotic finishes and effects and as OEMs struggle to shift cars, so customers will increase their demands for ever more fabulous paint jobs. So the future is very bright for the automotive paintshop; not too many significant investment cutbacks, continuing innovation in process and materials and a demanding and discerning customer base. Now it is simply up to the guys in sales and marketing to move the (beautifully painted) metal a bit faster!