The Cost of Going Global - BodyShop Business
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The Cost of Going Global

Since each country’s refinish market is at a different stage of maturity, product needs vary – making formulation costly for manufacturers and standardization of VOC rules nearly impossible.


It’s a global marketplace in which we live.
Goods manufactured all over the world are sold in the United States,
while goods manufactured here in the states are sold all over
the world – reaching every corner of the globe.

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Take auto-refinish coatings. They’re formulated
and manufactured on one continent, and then they’re distributed,
marketed and sold in a variety of countries around the world.
They’re sold globally. For this reason, it’s only logical that
a globalization of refinish-products take place.

This development – though catalyzed by a number
of factors – is heavily influenced by the desire of large car
manufacturers to have their suppliers meet international product
standards for quality and performance – and auto-refinish paint
manufacturers are an increasingly significant part of this OEM-supplier

This globalization of products, however, gets
tricky. In part, because growing public concern about air quality
has prompted governments in North America and Europe to pass tough
new laws to reduce the emissions of air pollutants, which increase
ground-level ozone. Two examples of this are the VOC rule in the
United Kingdom and the proposed VOC rule in the United States
– both limit the solvent, or VOC, content of refinish coatings.


The similarities of the rules can provide
a significant benefit to the industry because global paint manufacturers
can provide coatings to these markets without having to formulate
a completely separate set of products. But differences between
the two rules also exist – differences driven by the varied needs
of body shops in both countries and by the requirements of the
local air-pollution authorities (see the box titled "How
the VOC Rules Compare" for details on both rules).

These differences will affect product specification,
paint-technician training, product formulation and performance,
manufacture and distribution. For auto-refinish paint suppliers,
this adds to the complexity of going to market and to the cost
of providing compliant refinish paints to the shops in these countries.


Realistically, though, we can never expect
VOC rules to be identical in countries around the world. "So
why don’t refinish paint suppliers just formulate one set of products
with a VOC content that meets the strictest rule?" you ask.

The answer is simple: The market in each country
is at a different stage of maturity and sophistication, and thus,
product needs vary. Low-VOC products that perform well in one
country may not provide the same benefits in others.

But, when appropriate, it’s important for
industry representatives to help smooth out the transition to
compliant systems by striving for international rule harmonization.
For example, a coalition of U.S. and Canadian refinish paint suppliers
recently worked with Environment Canada to harmonize the proposed
Canadian VOC standard with the proposed U.S. National Rule. This
harmonization strategy made sense because of the similar needs
of the two markets and the air-pollution problems.


Another example can be cited in Europe, where
an association of auto-refinish coating suppliers is working with
the European Confederation of Paint, Printing Ink and Artists
Colours Manufacturing Associations (CEPE) to strive for consistency
in auto-refinish VOC rules.

This evolution of product VOC rules will continue
well into the next century and is a positive move to improve the
quality of our environment. It will also play an increasingly
important role in the makeup, manufacture and marketing of paints
for the auto-refinish industry around the world. Understanding
this global trend – and how it will affect your corner of the
world – will help you better manage its impact on your shop in
the years to come.


Writer Ken Hine is the director of technical,
safety, health and the environment for ICI Autocolor and a member
of the NPCA Auto Refinish Coalition, working with other members
to help bring about sensible product regulations.

How the VOC Rule Compare


Proposed U.S. National Rule Limit

U.K. EPA PG6/34 VOC Rule Limits as of April 1, 1995
Pretreatment Etch Primer

780 g/l

780 g/l


780 g/l
Primer Surfacer-1 and 2 pack

580 g/l

540 g/l
Primer Sealer

550 g/l

540 g/l
Single-Stage Topcoat

600 g/l

480 g/l
Two-Stage Base/Clear

600 g/l

590 g/l
Multistage Topcoat

625 g/l

640 g/l
"Specialty Coatings"

840 g/l

840 g/l
"Cleaners & Gun Wash"

No limits

850 g/l

The main differences are:

  • Some product limits and product definitions are different
    because body shop needs differ in each country due to average
    shop size, equipment, painter training and the mixes of car finishes
    and colors on the road.

  • The definition of "specialty" products is broader
    in the proposed U.S. National Rule because of market need; cleaning
    solvents in the United States aren’t regulated by the EPA due
    to enforcement and performance difficulties; and the U.K. rule
    specifies a precoat category to meet the local market requirements.

These differences result in larger numbers of raw materials and
product formulations, which adds cost to manufacturing and distribution.

  • The proposed U.S. rule doesn’t require the use of HVLP guns
    or the use of enclosed gun cleaners, though some states will continue
    to require the use of HVLP guns. In the United Kingdom, HVLP,
    air-assisted airless, electrostatic equipment or any other application
    technique with a transfer efficiency of 65 percent must be used.

  • Recordkeeping isn’t required at the shop level by the proposed
    U.S. rule, but it will continue to be required under some state
    rules. In the United Kingdom, a record of all paints, hardeners,
    and organic solvents and cleaning materials must be kept. The
    record must state the total organic-solvent usage.
  • In the United States, all shops will be covered by the proposed
    National Rule, with minor exemptions proposed for shops restoring
    antique vehicles. In the United Kingdom, there’s presently a cut-off
    limit exempting shops that emit less than 1,000 kg of VOCs.

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