Invisibility Cloak

Jan 1, 2013

Paint protection film (PPF) has reached the level of being such an important market it is watched by our industry on a regular basis. The reason for its importance is the sheer growth of these products in both the physical properties and increasing usage. With a product that garners that much attention, we wanted to know just how PPFs are doing this year. We asked our industry supplier sources, about this growth, product improvement and, yes, even prices.

2012 good? 2013 better?

To start off, we want to know whether 2012 was a good year for the PPF business and how does 2013 look? Philip Novac of Mentor, Ohio-based Avery Dennison Designed and Engineered Solutions tells us, “For Avery Dennison Designed and Engineered Solutions, 2012 was a very good year and 2013 looks to be even better. At the recent SEMA show we launched 60″-width Nano-Fusion™ PPF. We found that OEMs are now accepting 60″-width PPF as a product of choice to protect the beauty of their vehicles’ paint finish. With the 60″ width you can protect the full hood. Prior to now, automakers and car owners typically used 24″-width PPF to protect just the hood’s front 18″. We see full hood protection as the next big thing.”

Greg Duchinsky of Sharpline, Wichita, Kan., says, “The market for paint protection film in the U.S. continues to grow as consumer awareness and industry promotion of the product improves. 2013 should be another year of continued good growth for PPF in North America.”

At 3M Automotive Division in St. Paul, Minn., Kathy Lam agrees: “2012 was a good year. Consumers are becoming more confident and new-car sales are up. With more vehicle sales, there is a natural uptick in sales of paint protection film. Trends show that consumers plan to keep their vehicles longer and want to keep them looking great. In 2013, 3M wants to continue to offer consumers more: trained and certified installers, an excellent product and a strong warranty.”

Jamie Werner of Premium Shield, Holliston, Mass., is happy. “We had a fantastic 2012 with triple-digit growth for a third consecutive year. We contributed this growth to our new training facility in New England that caters specifically to new entrants into the PPF market. Should 2013 be better? Yes. The automotive market continues to show signs of improvement; new-car sales continue to rise, interest rates remain at all-time lows, and these two factors alone will result in new-car sales remaining strong throughout 2013.”

Who’s doing the work?

Let’s talk installers. Are we seeing more or fewer installers in the marketplace? And how big is the push for installers to be certified? Duchinsky from Sharpline says, “The demand for professionally trained (certified) installers for the application of PPF is critical for the long-term success of the products and the industry. Fortunately, installations of PPF performed by non-certified installers are easy to identify at the wholesale and consumer level. Installers who don’t invest in the necessary training cannot succeed in this market. Businesses that provide PPF applications using certified installers will enjoy both short- and long-term success.”

Lam from 3M agrees, saying, “3M believes that training and certifying its network of installers is key to high customer satisfaction and return business. Training these skilled, hands-on individuals in a consistent way helps to ensure that the film is installed properly. Additionally, 3M goes one step further in providing the installer with marketing materials to help them sell the film they are installing.”

Werner from Premium Shield says, “More [installers]. Until there is a unified body overseeing this industry, ‘certified installers’ will ring hollow. The people ‘certifying’ these installers have a vested interest for them to be certified in the first place. At the end of the day, this is a service business. If the film is not installed well, then the consumer will return it, complain to the dealership, or simply not pay. In essence, the consumer certifies each and every install, and they are the only certification that matters.”

Novac from Avery Dennison notes, “We are certainly seeing more installers in the market. At Avery Dennison, we are pushing for more and more installers to become certified. We award a lifetime warranty to Nano-Fusion PPF installed by Avery Dennison certified installers.”

Pre-cut kits

Thinking about pre-cut kits for partial PPF installs for vehicles’ leading edges: Are they becoming more prevalent? Lam tells us, “Yes, pre-cut kits are becoming more prevalent as evidenced by an increase in 3M software users who download the designs and cut the patterns with their plotters. Fewer and fewer installers are installing free-hand. Another interesting fact is that consumers want more coverage with no seams, and 3M answers this demand with our wide-width film that allows installers to cover full hoods.”

Werner says, “You still have the major pattern companies dominating the landscape. These companies have been pushing patterns for almost 10 years now, and have made great inroads into the old ‘hand cut’ installation base. There are not many people hand cutting on cars anymore; patterns really dominate, and have done so for a few years now.”

Novac also sees the trend: “Yes, precut kits now dominate the market. With precut PPF, you don’t have to trim the material on the car and risk damaging it with a razor or knife. In January 2013, Avery Dennison will launch pre-cut kit patterns. They will be available at a flat rate, with unlimited downloads.”

Duchinsky makes it unanimous, as he says, “Pre-cut PPF kits no longer carry a perceived stigma of being an aftermarket ‘add-on.’ Improvements in PPF materials and vehicle patterns now provide a very stealthy appearance over a short viewing distance. Several OEMs offer pre-cut PPF packages as part of their accessory offering for new vehicle purchases. Some OEMs are taking the extra effort of adding their logo to pre-cut kit pieces to better brand the product.”

Improved film technologies

As procedures improve, so does the product. We want to know about new improvements to the films that installers will see anytime soon. Werner says improvements indeed are happening in the marketplace. “We have just launched our Premium Shield product line, which utilizes a revolutionary hard coat on its surface. The idea is to protect the aliphatic urethane from acid rain, bug stains and bird droppings by adding a top coating. In the past, these coatings have been very stiff materials that increase the difficulty of installing the film around complex curves like bumpers. The new technology employed with Premium Shield Elite only reduces the elasticity of the film by 2%. In essence, the installer wouldn’t even notice there is a hard coat when it comes to flexibility of the film and his ease of installation.”

Adhesives have also improved, Werner adds, noting his PPF product uses an adhesive system “that absorbs stretch marks, pull-back lines and finger prints. Again, the improvements that this industry cries out for all come down to making the product more user-friendly – and that is certainly the direction we have tried to take.”

Novac says, “Our R&D group is always looking to make product improvements. We were the first to come out with Nano-Fusion technology, which fuses into the urethane. Most PPF products sit on top of the urethane. Plus, Nano-Fusion is guaranteed not to yellow.”

Duchinsky says “Sharpline’s DuraShield brand paint protection films are among the most conformable and installation-friendly in the industry. These high-quality films have amazing optical clarity with amazing durability. We will continue to refine and improve the DuraShield line to exceed the demands of the market.”

Lam says, “3M is currently in development cycle. We are very aware of the customer needs in the marketplace and our development is focused around these needs. 3M is committed to bringing innovative solutions to the marketplace.”

Film prices

Film pricing, too, needs consideration. Are prices changing for PPF materials to help attract more consumers? Novac tells us, “Look for pricing to remain consistent throughout the marketplace. We anticipate no change for the foreseeable future.”

Duchinsky is in agreement. “Prices for PPF materials don’t appear to be changing, but the availability of ‘value-added’ PPF packages seems to be increasing. Some businesses offer ‘good-better-best’ PPF installations that provide discounts for larger PPF package purchases,” he notes.

Lam tells us, “3M offers several types of packages to the consumer, which allows them choices to fit their budget and preferences. For instance, the 3M ‘Wear and Tear’ Package, which provides coverage on door edges, door cups and trunk ledges, protects key areas of the vehicle.  Other customers may choose to add additional coverage that includes hoods, mirror backs, rocker panels, etc.”

Werner says, “The MSRP for a consumer to have film professionally installed has remained constant. There continues to be increases in raw materials used for PPF, along with labor rates rising slightly. The combination of this has resulted in, if anything, a slight rise in aftermarket prices.”

Films supplier assistance

How do manufacturers/suppliers help installers promote paint protection films? Lam explains, “For over seven years, 3M has supported their installer network with a wide variety of marketing materials, at a ‘one-stop-shop,’ password-protected website. They can order customized, specific make-and-model tabletop posters, banners, mugs, installation aprons, apparel and of course, comprehensive brochures for the consumer. Recently, 3M updated the    ‘Where to Buy’ section of their website to make it easier for consumers to connect to their 3M Certified Installer.”

Duchinsky says, “Sharpline offers a large selection of marketing tools to help installers promote our DuraShield brand PPF, including printed materials, displays, banners, and Web-based videos. Sharpline also has a dedicated website for the DuraShield paint protection film line.”

Novac adds, “We supply all the tools for installers to take into dealerships. Plus, we work with dealers and OEMs directly to help make PPF a mainstream product.”

Werner suggests, “A lot of installers have been able to get a website up and running that shows the services they offer, along with all relevant information for the consumer to make a purchase.

“The goal now is to shed light on this product, and show consumers that a solution exists to the problem of stone chips. We believe the area they need the most help is in regard to driving social media efforts. We intend to help draw relevant traffic to their sites and enable them to saturate their local territory with effective promotions.”

Pssst … Want a Hot Tip?

While we had our sources pinned down, we asked them to share one of their most useful application tech tips, and they delivered. 3M Automotive Division’s Kathy Lam says it’s up to the user: “This answer depends on the experience level of the installer, but generally, you can never use too much application solution,” she says. “It helps to prevent squeegee marks and lift lines and ultimately helps produce an excellent installation.”

At Sharpline, Greg Duchinsky indicates it’s variety: “Use a couple of different application solutions (soap/water and alcohol/water) for PPF installations. The correct mixture of each of these solutions will greatly aid in the speed and quality of your PPF installation,” he says.

“Another tip is to keep learning new installation techniques. Keeping your installation skills fresh will help you to succeed with new PPF installation challenges that may come your way.”

Philip Novac of Avery Dennison Designed and Engineered Solutions gave us two: “First, select a PPF that is easy to install, like Nano-Fusion, which is highly conformable. Beyond that, surface preparation is certainly a critical element in the installation process: If the car’s surface has oil or contaminants during installation, you will probably have a PPF failure in the field. Install in a clean area that is free of airborne contaminants.”

Jamie Werner of Premium Shield mentions the “small things” that make a difference. “Make sure the car is clean before you start,” he emphasizes. “If you have access to a compressed air gun, this is a great way to blow out any small particles of sand, dirt or dust. This contamination tends to loosen and fall into the adhesive as you spray your application solutions onto the vehicle. It’s a lot more difficult to clean when you’re holding a 6″-long piece of film in one hand, and a squeegee in the other. Make sure the car is prepped and clean before you start your installation. Seems like common sense, but it happens all the time.”