Automotive coatings involve technology that is constantly evolving, for both manufacturers and applicators. Keeping current with color preferences is certainly a key interest to coatings manufacturers. I recently attended BASF’s Color Show, which revealed its annual automotive color trend report and 65 new colors for automakers and designers around the world. The theme of the forecast, “Making Headway,” indicates a movement toward more color shades than in previous years. BASF recently conducted a survey of North American consumers. The results show that 60% of those polled currently drive a neutral color car, such as silver, black or white, but when asked what color offerings they preferred from a selection of new colors from BASF’s trend report, 49% selected the jewel-toned Aspire To color palette (shown here). “This reflects what our color trend research is showing for color preferences,” says Paul Czornij, Technical Manager for the BASF Color Excellence group. “It underscores the preference for optimism and confidence pointing toward a better future.”

Emotion and psychology are always reflected in color, and car color preferences change as circumstances in a region change. In Asia-Pacific, BASF’s forecast reflects the region’s strong sense of its growing presence on the global stage – with themes of pride in culture and identity, independent from trends in other countries. Neutral colors such as black, silver, gray and white will continue to dominate the Asia-Pacific market, but as original designs and personal style become more important to buyers, BASF predicts there will be a gradual emergence of sophisticated intermediate colors, such as olive greens and bluish grays. In Europe, where people have been impacted by the economic crisis and changes in energy policy, there is a tendency to move forward rationally and calmly. This results in a balance between creative, courageous colors such as red and green, and calmer, neutral colors such as black and gray.

New concepts are also being introduced on the application side of automotive coatings, including ways to improve product and energy efficiency. Chrysler Group is investing nearly $850 million in a new 425,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art paint shop at its Sterling Heights, MI, assembly plant. In July, PCI Associate Editor Karen Parker had the opportunity to tour the impressive new paint shop, which plans to begin production in the first quarter of 2014.

Chrysler uses powder coatings in the primer systems for its vehicles, as powder allows for 96-97% utilization of the powder material, versus 70-75% with liquid. The new paint shop features eight wall robots that apply the powder primer system, minimizing contamination. It also features a 90% recirculating powder spray booth for energy conservation.

 For the topcoat system, the new shop has three recirculating spray booths, which conserve energy. It has 68 total robots that spray a waterborne basecoat and a 2K clearcoat. All of the robots are wall mounted to minimize contamination, and a pressurized conveyor shroud minimizes paint overspray contamination.