Axalta has commissioned a new coating plant at Baroda to cater to Indian OEMs.

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Bhargav TS

Axalta entered India in 1996, and was formerly known as DuPont Performance Coatings. Taking on a new identity in 2013 as Axalta Coating Systems following a change in ownership, the company increased its focus on emerging markets like India with the view of strengthening its bottom line and achieving higher than industry average growth. Announcing a plan to expand its existing factory at Savli in Gujarat, and setting up an automotive coating development laboratory at the same location roughly two years ago, Axalta has commissioned a new coating plant at Baroda. With it, it will cater to the growing demands of Indian automotive OEMs. Supplying coatings to commercial vehicle manufacturers like Volvo Buses India and Tata Motors, the company has, by inaugurating the Baroda plant, doubled its manufacturing capacity. Specialising in liquid and powder coatings, which it supplies not only to automotive OEMs but also to industrial segments, the inauguration of the new plant has thrown open many opportunities for growth.

Built over an area of 5,200 sq. m., the Savli plant of Axalta produces coatings for refinishes, automotive parts, and automotive OEMs. Continuing to invest significantly in India in-line with its growth strategy, the company, other than building global IT and other back office functions in India, has been upgrading its refinish training centres throughout the country to better serve the customers. Expressed Charles W. Shaver, CEO, Axalta, “These facilities and the significant investments made in the past couple of years are in sync with Axalta’s strong commitment to India to deliver innovative and comprehensive coating solutions. In India, we have customers in every sector of the automotive market and in other industry sectors. Axalta’s global expertise in coatings will play a significant role in India to cater to our customers’ specific coatings requirements.” Bullish about the growth of the Indian automotive market, Axalta, with the commissioning of the new plant will be better positioned to cater to the rising demand of both, high and low temperature cured coatings. Drawing attention to the World Bank data, which has mentioned that India’s GDP in 2017 was 7.2 per cent, and made it the fastest growing economy in the world, Shaver mentioned, “There are only a couple of parts in the world with growth potential, and India is one of them.”

Keen to take advantage of the growing automotive market in India, Axalta has ensured that the Savli facility could be scaled up to produce waterborne coatings for customers’ conversion to more sustainable solutions. The new plant employs environmentally responsible processes and is designed for low emissions. This would help to not only create a healthy environment for the community but also create a sustainable future for Axalta. “Axalta has been widely recognised by its customers in India for excellent performance and service commitments in the refinish and industrial segments. We now look forward to bringing the same kind of commitment to meet the growing demand of the Indian automotive and industrial OEMs,” mentioned Vinay Rajadhyaksha, Managing Director, Axalta Coating Systems India. He explained, “We were supplying to high-value plastic parts for the automotive sector. The new capabilities will help us in a big way in entering the vehicle and body colour market for commercial vehicles. The content for each vehicle will jump four to five times, and bring huge volumes.” To support an increase in its activity, Axalta is claimed to be simultaneously working on increasing its reach in the Indian market. It is said to be further expanding its product distribution network in the country.

Charles W. Shaver, Chairman and CEO, Axalta

Q: What trends do you see in commercial vehicle coatings?

A. With the younger generation entering into the commercial vehicle business, I am seeing their desire to have the vehicle look unique and attractive. Corporate identity is growing, and taking into its fold vans and trucks by wanting them to have a distinct identity in the market. A trend like this did not exist in the past. Tata Motors is coming out with new colours like sunrise orange in commercial vehicles, which we are supplying to them. It is great that we are able to move to new, brighter colours, which are also shiny and look better. For us, it is the right time to be in India. Globally, the inside and outside of vehicles are turning out to be a commodity. The styling and colours are helping to differentiate. To beat the possibility of interiors and exteriors of vehicles looking similar, companies are working on unique colours. In India, this trend is prominent and makes it ideal for us to be present. Consumers are delighted to have new and fresh designs, colours and special effects.

Q: What new developments is Axalta driving into India?

A. We have introduced the direct-to-metal product to one of our customers. It improves productivity by avoiding primer. It is also more competitive. We are also finding more demand for environment-friendly water bond technology in refinishing. Some of the OEMs we cater to are not using it. There are some whose body shops want to use it. In mass production, the key factors are productivity, colour differentiation, ownership, and dealership. They are about sustainability and vary from business to business. We provide a range of performance and transportation coatings for manufacturers of light and commercial vehicles. We also cater to the refinish aftermarket, and to many industrial coating system applications.

Q: How is the transition to solid waterborne paints progressing?

A. The refinish body shops would see more waterborne paints than the industrial segments. Waterborne coatings let out fewer toxins into the environment. The level of toxins in the air is high in solvent-based paints. they also stay in the air long after the painting has been done. Waterborne coatings are non-flammable, non-toxic and non-hazardous. They make a good option for a paint coating that meets the clean air regulations. There should be a push from the government like we are seeing in China.

Q: Do solvent and waterborne paints differ in cost?

A. Waterborne paints cost more. You could, however, use less as their productivity is more. Solvent-based paints take four to six hours to spray. Waterborne paints take less than an hour. Waterborne paints are thus three to four times more productive. To switch to waterborne paints, the entire set up has to be changed, however. It costs around USD 30 to 40 million.

Q: How are OEMs taking to waterborne paints?

A. It differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. One may not want to make a large capital investment or shut down the production line to make the transition. They would look at waterborne paints when they open a new plant. In such an instance, we are ready to support them. We are finding it best to have a dialogue with them. In India, the decision to turn to waterborne paints will enhance productivity, reduce cost and lead to many other benefits. We support environment-friendly coatings.

Q: What innovations are finding their way into paints?

A. Painting on a light-weight material is a big deal. There are different materials coming in and all the colours have to match all the materials. Light-weighting will continue to be a big deal and is made complex because of the need to ensure strength, weight ratio and crash test compliance. Due to different materials, we cannot necessarily use the same primer that we use on the car body. Technical issues like these make it complex. There is demand for corrosion resistance to improve. For every change of material, the primer will be different. The use of different primer and the same paint on the parts will produce different colours. All coatings layers will have to be modified for different use of the material.

Q: How are performance products defined?

A. Performance can be either in paints or in their application. It is, therefore, the process, product, and technology that define performance products. It is they that define our products in comparison to that of others. Customers can get different shades or a different colour from us. If this shows that we are better than others, we develop and manufacture a wide range of performance and transportation coatings. Many automotive and light truck OEMs have come to rely on Axalta to deliver performance and incomparable colour palettes. From superior corrosion protection of our electrocoats to lush basecoat colours and topcoats, we have, and continue to create an attractive finish that will withstand rough weather and road conditions.

Our singular focus on providing brilliant coatings makes us

stand out.

Q: What best practices have you implemented at the Savli plant?

A. The design of the new Savli plant is based on our Jiading plant in China, which we built three years ago. It was highly automated and lean, and we took a leaf out of that plant for India. In India, we will learn more about cost than in China and in the US. We will implement best practices and learnings that we get from this plant in other facilities in the future.

Q: What new customers are you working within India?

A. We are working with new customers in India and at initial stages. We are also working with our existing customers like Bajaj Auto for their new projects. We are also working with a major commercial vehicle manufacturer for their LCV project.

Q: How do see the Indian market shaping up for you in the next five years?

A. Looking at the market, we feel that passenger cars will grow, followed by two-wheelers and commercial vehicles. The market share in India for these three sectors in the next five years will be around USD 500 to 600 million. Of this, USD 300 million will be passenger cars; USD 150 to 180 million will be two-wheelers and the remaining will be commercial vehicles. We will continue to work on all the segments. Since we are ready with the new plant, we are ready to cater to all of them. The dialogue is on. We will not be able to disclose the names of the customers, and instead what we would like to tell you is that the first batches from our new plant are ready for despatch to our two-wheeler and commercial vehicle customers.

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