When you look at major improvements to automotive quality over the past 20 years, one of the big ones is paint finish. These days, it’s easy to take for granted that a car appears at the dealership with a perfect, beautiful outer shell. But automotive paint is a highly regulated, highly scientific aspect of every new car. Everything from the smoothness and thickness of the paint to how the process effects the environment is scrutinized in unbelievable detail.
So when Kansas City’s GM Fairfax Assembly plant announced this week that they broke ground on a new paint shop as part of a $600-million investment, you can be assured that this is a major upgrade. The idea is to make every new Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Malibu look its best while using less energy and producing less waste. General Motors breaks down the new technology with the following points.
• Up-to a 20-percent smaller footprint, up-to 50 percent less energy per vehicle and a reduction in Volatile Organic Compound emissions.
• GM-patented Radiant Tub Ovens, designed to use 20 percent less natural gas and 40 percent less electricity.
• Thin Film Technology, which reduces water use and maintenance and eliminates hazardous chemicals from the waste stream.
• Hyper Throw E-COAT, which places more coating in cavities and recesses for optimal corrosion protection.
Construction on the new paint shop will last about two years. It will increase the size of the entire plant by 15-percent, to 3.7-million square-feet.
This new addition to the Fairfax plant illustrates the commitment, investment, and technological resources that an automaker like General Motors must make to stay competitive. So the next time you look at your car, pay attention to the paint finish. There may be more that went into it than you think.