Everyone has likely heard the famous quote from Henry Ford: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” This was in a difficult period in the early 1900s and Ford was expanding his car production volume while trying to keep the costs down. From the coatings perspective, black paint has low film build requirements and these early formulations were faster to process and dry. Also, offering a single color reduced the complexity of the paint shop, which today still accounts for a large portion of the energy used in automobile assembly plants.
So, the drive for improved painting efficiency started essentially when the first cars were mass produced. This manufacturing efficiency goal had to be balanced with the customer desire to have a full palette of high-quality colors. This trend continued in the 20th century with the advancement of high tech paint materials and more efficient applicators for high-speed painting.
In the early 1970s, the United States EPA solvent emission regulations required the implementation of more efficient waterborne and high solids coatings. The advent of cathodic electro-deposition coatings improved the painting efficiency, met solvent emission requirements and delivered outstanding corrosion resistance to automobiles. The old rusty cars, “rust buckets,” often seen in the midwestern snow and salt are now largely forgotten. At the end of the 20th century then the quality of the automobile finish was improved dramatically from the early days of Henry Ford. The colorful palette largely met consumer demands for quality and durability. All while meeting the EPA environmental regulations.