Modification enthusiasts, those who have added three or more modification elements to one vehicle in the past 12 months, are strong users of specialty paints. Recently released information from Frost & Sullivan has 83 percent of vehicle owners stating that their vehicle has a theme and, 73 percent say paint, existing or new, is the key element that sets the stage for the theme. Furthermore, in comparison with Frost & Sullivan's 2006 study of the same population, modification enthusiasts' interest in paint increased slightly to 54 percent from 49 percent in 2006.
To create a theme, vehicle owners look to coordinate accessories and modification components with the paint color. As new colors work their way into the market, products such as mats, steering wheel covers, knobs, gauges, running boards and steps will all be impacted. Beyond paint, the most common themes for vehicles were those related to the vehicle's brand or even cartoon characters, so paint colors that work with the vehicle manufacturer logo colors and those that work with cartoon character products are most important to enthusiasts. In general, enthusiasts are using the colors of sports teams on a variety of products. Owners who accessorized their vehicle with a sports-team theme are on the rise and surprisingly finished higher than vehicles accessorized with a racecar-team theme. Dallas Cowboy blue, Celtics green, Red Wing Red and Yankee pinstripes may be the basis of color trends in the future.
The paint manufacturers really look to enthusiasts for directional trends in colors and finishes. Industry observers state that different enthusiast groups look for different types of things from their paint, but that the Tuner enthusiasts really set the trends in color styling. Paint manufacturers state that Tuners were instrumental in the development of the oranges we see on production cars today. Because Tuners constantly seek out the "unique," the paint industry has found that Tuner paint demands are at the extremes. At one end are their demand for high gloss candy finishes, metallic flakes and 4-color shifting finishes that give the vehicle a different color depending on the angle. At the other end is their demand for the more subtle matte finishes, especially in the platinum and gray tones as well as the classic 60s and 70s color palette. Industry experts at PPG forecast a resurgence of the brown tones for vehicles and matte finishes for OE motorcycles.
Interestingly, Frost & Sullivan's research indicated that 31.5 percent of the 2008 respondents stated that they used the services of a professional for their paint job while the remaining 68.5 percent completed the paint project as a do-it–yourself (DIY) project. Chart 1 depicts how modification enthusiasts reported completing paint projects in 2008.
The high percentage of DIY modification jobs is in line with industry information on the paint market size. Information gathered from industry associations and Frost & Sullivan indicates that consumers spent close to $78.8 million on automotive paint, coatings and primers in 2007. Most aftermarket replacement component categories are hovering between 0 and 3 percent in annual revenue growth. Specialty paints with growth in the 5.3-percent range is a strong performing category, however the expectation is that this growth will subside over the next two years. Custom paint jobs are typically a discretionary spending item and with a tightening economy, the automotive industry is now beginning to see the impact of consumer spending shifts.
Enthusiast demand for the unique has propelled the paint industry to develop new technologies to meet enthusiast finish quality, appearance, adhesion and durability requirements. The automotive industry has a real need to reduce vehicle weight for both the general driving and performance populations. Vehicle manufacturers want to improve fuel efficiency while the race industry looks for fuel efficiency, speed and ease of repair. These demands have pushed vehicle manufacturers and component manufacturers to turn to new materials such as carbon fiber and magnesium. However, each new material creates both adhesion and durability challenges for the paint industry. In the past, carbon fiber was only concentrated amongst tuner enthusiasts where demand remained limited, but now vehicle manufacturers have brought carbon fiber onto the production floor and we can expect to see this material in upcoming models of the Ford Mustang, Dodge Viper and Chevy Corvette. Now we even see companies like Akzo Nobel Coatings, Inc. and Ciba Geigy working together to develop a paint finish that has UV coverage specifically designed to protect the carbon fiber components.