Switching to BASF Waterborne for the Green Reasons

Switching to BASF Waterborne for the Green Reasons

As almost every body shop manager in this country knows, waterborne paint is a proven commodity in the collision repair industry and shops outside of California are gradually but decidedly heading in that direction. As federal regulations and air quality management agencies apply pressure designed to nudge more states towards lower VOCs, some body shops in parts of the country will undoubtedly resist change, while others will embrace it for its wide range of benefits.

Some multiple shop operators doing business in California have been able to leverage their experience in California to adopt waterborne elsewhere across the country. For example, Sterling Autobody Centers announced last year that they have implemented waterborne network-wide, but that is not yet the norm. So it’s interesting that a large New Jersey collision facility went to waterborne recently  not because the laws mandated the conversion, but because they wanted to take the high road in being green and helping both their employees and the environment.

They’re hoping that it will lead to more business, additional DRPs and an enhanced overall reputation throughout their communityKeith Holloway is the body shop manager at DCH Brunswick Toyota Collision Center in Brunswick, New Jersey, where he oversees the operation of a 43,000 square foot collision center and supervises 35 employees as they fix 230-250 vehicles per month, he said.

After DCH Brunswick Toyota Collision Center’s contract with another paint company’s solvent product last year, BASF’s eco-friendly Onyx HD waterborne basecoat system won out over several competing paint lines.

“We did some extensive research and BASF’s Onyx HD waterborne basecoat had the best performance and overall value for us. We took paint proposals from five different vendors, but BASF stood out because in the end they offered the best product and service package. We went with BASF because we thought they would help us grow, and we also learned that the Onyx HD waterborne basecoat system is compliant with the EPA regulations and the laws that are coming out in 2011 and 2012. That was definitely something we wanted to work toward, so that’s why we signed with the company.”

Holloway values BASF’s support and education. “We’ve been very impressed by their service and follow-through. We’re still testing our waterborne and tweaking the way we’re using it, and BASF has been by our side every step of the way. The paint is good, there’s no doubt. But what’s really pleased us the most is the support they’ve provided, especially from our BASF Business Development Manager Kent Leonard and Tom Smetanka, our jobber with Central Paint in Trenton, New Jersey.”

It wasn’t an easy conversion from solvent to waterborne, Holloway admitted, but in the end it’s paying off. “We’re still in the process to determine how compatible our production process is with the BASF waterborne product, and so far it’s doing a very good job for us. It did take us 6-8 weeks to get our staff up to speed with this product, and our painters did have to go to BASF’s training center in Maryland so they could get acclimated to the product and learn all of the do’s and don’t’s of working with it.”

Learning BASF’s waterborne system wasn’t a no-brainer, Holloway said. “It’s quite a bit different and the painters have to slow down to take their time with this waterborne. The paint is not as fast-acting as solvent, and I’m not going to tell you that it was easy. BASF has a great product and the process of applying it took us a while to get up to speed, but we’re now running very efficiently with the waterborne product.”

The federal requirements are going to get tougher in March, because certain high VOC products will be banned from use in body shops nationwide, Holloway explained. Paint technicians are going to have to get more certifications for completing the proper courses to satisfy the federal mandates.

“Body shops nationwide will have to go through EPA inspections to show that what we’re sending out into the air is not going to hurt the environment,” Holloway said. “The process started one-and-a-half years ago when the EPA started sending out notices and informing shops that that things were going to start changing this March, little by little.”The state laws in New Jersey aren’t mandating the use of waterborne paint (yet), but Holloway is already reading the writing, or painting in this case, on the wall.

“They’re not forcing shops to do it yet, but we want to be ahead of the game when it goes into effect in 2012. We want to be an innovator in this industry and be able to offer the public and the insurance companies something many shops can’t offer them right now, which is the benefits of waterborne paint. Going green and giving something back to help the planet; those are things we want to be involved in.”

Has Holloway seen evidence that converting to BASF waterborne will eventually help the bottom line at DCH Brunswick, Toyota? “The word is definitely out that we’re now offering something different, which positions us in a better light with consumers. We feature it in our advertising, but people in this area don’t really understand it completely yet. It’s about educating everyone about this product. Once they know the all the benefits of waterborne, it will gain momentum here, I believe.”

Ed Attanasio

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

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