What are the current trends in the global marketplace for automotive paints and coatings?
The pandemic has strongly impacted the global economy and we felt it in the refinish coatings industry. The industry is moving to become more digital. From colour retrieval to training, the market is turning to technologies such as AI, robotics, and VR to automate their process and improve their efficiencies.
We’re also seeing that companies are gearing up for future mobility. Manufacturers are investing heavily in electric mobility, and EV production is expected to continue to increase. Despite a chip shortage, traditional OEMs are continuing to work with new partners from sourcing to software giants to strengthen their EV production value chain. Paint and coatings producers are adapting as well to develop EV solutions.
Most importantly though, the industry is driving to be more sustainable. Energy consumption and efficiency are the focus of many projects right now. Companies are investing to push their supply chain toward meeting ethical and environmental targets often beyond regulations.
What are BASF’s niche and standing in automotive refinishing?
BASF has over 130 years of history in the coatings industry where we have been the leader in customised technologies. Our premium refinish brands, Glasurit and R-M, both have over a century of industry experience, making us a global expert in the development, production and marketing of innovative and sustainable automotive refinish coatings. Today, sustainability and digitalisation are two of our most important areas of focus and we are continuously developing innovative products and solutions that support bodyshop customers to improve their efficiency and reduce their waste, material consumption and CO2 emissions. Our extensive knowledge and advanced production allow us to offer unique products and solutions with such features as ultra-low VOC levels and digital solutions that enable our customers to boost their productivity to even greater heights. Glasurit 100 Line basecoat, for example, has one of the lowest VOC levels in the market. Our cloud-based digital platform, Refinity, provides a one-stop solution for our customers’ needs in colour mixing, business solutions and training, saving them manual operations and time, and ultimately improving their business profitability.
The second-hand car market is strong in India and, with it, the demand for colour modification. Such demand is best matched by Glasurit’s world’s largest colour database and top-of-the-line product quality. In addition to protection, Glasurit also gives repaired vehicles a makeover, making them look like new. BASF has the perfect solution for this market and our products deliver the results that car owners want.
What strategies are you using to increase market share for your automotive refinishing products?
In addition to Glasurit, our other focus in India is with NORBIN, a brand that offers consistent quality for the value-for-money sector. With its full range yet lean portfolio and easiness of use, NORBIN has been successful in penetrating the retail segment as well as the B&C-class bodyshops. During the pandemic we focused our efforts to expand our network in India by partnering up with a large number of local dealers, making the full range of NORBIN easily available in all metropolitan areas and most tier 1 cities in the country. We continue to receive positive feedback from our customers about NORBIN’s exceptional cost/performance ratio and they are returning for repeat purchases. We are also providing comprehensive training and colour support to both dealers and painters, which is not something that has been easily available to this segment until now.
BASF has also entered the commercial vehicle market in India by working with a number of e-bus customers. We have strong ambitions in the growing electric bus market in the country.
What types of transformation have you seen in the automotive coating industry over the last two decades?
The search for young spray painters presents a global challenge, especially with shrinking labour forces in most developed markets. In this age of digital revolution, it is even harder to find well-trained painters who are passionate about the automotive repair business. That’s why it is crucial for us to support the development and nurturing of such talent globally.
During my last visit in India, I realised I did not see female painters in any of my visits to bodyshops and mixing rooms. There is great potential to promote diversity in the industry. At BASF, we see women in almost every function, be it in sales and marketing, controlling, supply chain management, communications, R&D and even production. There is also a considerable and growing percentage of women in leadership roles in the industry. There are vast opportunities for women in the automotive sector as they have keen eyes for detail, can collaborate well with others, and can offer innovative ideas. It is important to have different perspectives in the room and we welcome the diversity of voices and outlooks.
BASF’s international training programme for new automotive refinish technicians, STAMPP, partners up with vocational schools all over the world to provide modern, standardised training for young learners. The R-M Best Painter Contest is our own initiative to bring young talent together to compete on the global stage where they can learn how to work in the most efficient and sustainable ways. Glasurit was recently the exclusive sponsor of the car painting category at the WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition. We were delighted to see a co-champion coming from Asia this year. Jongyun Kim, from South Korea, has gone through training with the Glasurit system.
The car painting trade requires an enormous number of skills and knowledge and we are completely committed to providing the next generation of painters with the training and teaching they will need to be successful in this industry.
What are your top-of-the-line products? What are the products in pipeline?
We work with customers across the region on waterborne systems, waste reduction and CO2 emissions. Our Glasurit 100 Line is the first basecoat line on the market that has a VOC level that is under 250 g/l. That’s a 40% reduction from traditional waterborne basecoats and far lower than any global VOC requirements. When compared with existing basecoat lines in the market, our customers can expect savings of up to 35% in overall process times through faster application and shorter flash-off cycles. Another 20% savings can be achieved through reduced material consumption.
Refinity, our cloud-based digital platform, provides a one-stop access to all of our digital tools, including colour retrieval, business solutions, training programmes, technical support and more. The platform is designed to provide customers with a seamless and unique digital experience anytime and anywhere as long as they are connected to the internet. From colour identification to bodyshop management, we support our customers at all points of the business, driving their productivity to the highest level.
In the pipeline for APAC, Glasurit also has a new, innovative range of UV-A solutions for the entire repair process, offering faster curing times, using less energy and producing less waste than current processes. These revolutionary solutions provide up to 25% quicker curing times than any other curing source used in bodyshop today. They also do not require high temperatures to cure, thereby using on average 50% less energy on each paint job. In addition to being faster, the technology also offers better hardness, durability and chemical resistance when compared to conventional products. The curing process typically uses a lot of energy, so the huge reduction in time saves a significant amount of VOC and CO2 emissions, making it safer and easier for bodyshops to use and being far better for the environment at the same time.
How much of an impact do environmental concerns have on BASF’s product development?
BASF has dedicated R&D teams working on the next generation of eco-friendly and efficient products. We focus on all scope 1, 2 and 3 of carbon emission, and encourage raw material and logistic services suppliers to continuously develop and implement measures in their sustainability strategy and roadmap as well. We are also constantly in touch with our customers for discussion, development, and collaboration on sustainable solutions.
In the realm of automotive refinish coatings, we lead in innovation and technology with low VOC, UV and biomass-balanced products that support our customers in the pursuit of their corporate commitment to lowering their CO2 emissions and energy consumption. As a coatings provider, we not only focus on paint products but also on process efficiency. Beyond repair processes, we also provide consultation that improves workstation and shop efficiency.
Local regulation is always the accelerator of industrial technology trends. In a region as diverse as the Asia Pacific, we work closely with local parties to monitor legal developments and we proactively participate in such discussions.
How do people within the automotive refinishing industry need to be reskilled to get ready for the future? What is BASF doing about it?
Digitalization is the future, involving the entire process starting with identifying the colour with digital tools, mixing the colour with digital support, and accessing the colour library on a digital cloud-based platform, all of which will remove several manual operations thereby increasing efficiency and improving accuracy. Refinity is designed to drive our customers’ business success, providing them with access to solutions, offering them support and becoming their trusted partner.
While we are working on the right suite of solutions for the future, business owners are, at the same time, realising the need to change their mindsets, and our technicians and business consultants can help them on their transitional journey that will put them at the cutting edge of technology in our industry. This, of course, leads to bodyshop owners looking at the next generation of technicians requiring a whole new skillset. We have the knowledge and materials available now to train them.
The automotive refinishing industry is one that is full of opportunity. New skills and more cooperation are what are needed and it is incumbent upon all of us to make sure it is both interesting and exciting for the next generation.