Prestige Imports is a BASF Waterborne Advocate in Colorado

Prestige Imports is a BASF Waterborne Advocate in Colorado

When his customers are spending big money on vehicles costing more than $50,000 and sometimes well into six figures, Jim Frost, the manager at Prestige Imports Collision Center in Lakewood, Colorado, knows his paint jobs have to be top-tier every single time.

That’s why he’s enthused on several levels about his conversion to waterborne paint. Frost is pleased about the performance and the finished product he’s getting with Glasurit 90-Line, BASF’s waterborne product, and Prestige is proud to be a Colorado waterborne pioneer—the very first body shop in the Centennial State to adopt the green approach nearly three years ago.

Frost, 41, started working for his father’s shop at age 15. Now his collision center serves three Colorado dealerships: Prestige Imports Porsche Audi, Mercedes-Benz of Littleton and Mile High Honda Acura Mitsubishi. Prestige Imports Collision Center will repair any type of vehicle, but primarily focuses on the European brands its dealership sells, as well as Ferraris, Bentleys, Maseratis and Lotuses, among others.  With 19 employees, this 19,000 square-ft. facility has an average repair ticket of approximately $3,300 and at any given point it’s likely that the shop will have more than a dozen repair orders in-house averaging more than $20,000 each.

Frost conducted an in-depth study before he chose BASF as his paint vendor, he told Autobody News. “We decided to change to waterborne and adopt all of the California laws even before they went into effect there. We analyzed all of the waterborne paint lines that were out there starting a little more than three years ago. We discovered that BASF offered an ideal solution for us in our environment. Many of the cars we repair were originally painted with BASF waterborne from the factory. We liked the product and appreciate their support, so that was a big part of the decision.”

Becoming familiar with BASF Glasurit 90-Line involved watching other shops using it, Frost explained. “I went out to Southern California with my painting team to their training facility there and BASF took us around to local body shops that were using the BASF waterborne product. At that point, we went through some training and when we came back here, we felt as though we were ready to roll.  FinishMaster, our local jobber, assembled all of the necessary materials and we came in one Saturday and switched over to water.”

 It was a challenge for his paint crew during the first month or so, but Prestige didn’t have a single comeback and the learning curve flattened out quickly. “Change is never easy, but we’re always looking to make ourselves better,” Frost said. “We decided to push the envelope and make a definitive move. After 30 days of saying this is the way we’re painting cars and we’re not looking back, the painting staff accepted it. And now I can guarantee that they would never go back.”

What was the biggest issue to converting to BASF Glasurit 90-Line? “The main challenge for us is our climate here in Colorado,” Frost said. “The humidity swings and the temperature changes here all the time, so we had to start what I call “cocktailing our mixes” to make them correct. Once we were able to solve that, it was seamless.  We retrofitted the booths and we installed more fans and that was essentially it. A lot of people were telling us that we had to buy a lot of other equipment, but we determined it wasn’t actually necessary.”

Frost also uses BASF’s paint inventory system and values it for its ease-of-use. “We have incorporated their  SmarTools inventory control and management system, and we like it. Every week, I get an accurate report, so I know what to order and exactly what I have at any given time. I also credit that to an increase in profitability, because we don’t run out or ever buy too much of the product.”

Even without any pending legislation on the horizon in Colorado, body shops are flocking toward the waterborne solution statewide, Frost said. “Since we switched over in 2008, roughly 35 shops have converted and we always invite other shops here so they can see how we’re doing it. We’ve even had other shops sending their painters here, pulling the triggers alongside our crew to learn the product and tell them “hey, it’s not so hard. You don’t need to be afraid of it.”  We tell other shops to try the BASF Glasurit 90-Line and make your own call. There is no substitute for doing it yourself.  Some of these shops are competing with us, but we have no problem with sharing information this important. In the end, we should all be stewards of the land, and if I can help to get one guy over his apprehension using this product, then so this is definitely a win for everyone.”

Business life is a series of trade-offs, but switching to waterborne was a win-win for Prestige, Frost says. “The product costs slightly more, but the coverage is superior. The color matches are more accurate and we have experienced an increase in our overall material gross profits since we made the change. We’re very environmentally-minded here in Colorado and we participate in the Environmental Leadership Program sponsored by the state. They’ve recognized us for our green practices from a recycling perspective and they awarded us with their silver certificate for the changes that we’ve made here.”

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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