Exquisite Goods

This information is intended for X5 owners who will need to have some body work done in the near future. BMW has stated that use of non-authorized parts (including paint) will void the car’s warranty. The problem is finding out which brand/type of paint was originally used. Don’t bother asking the dealer, they don’t have a clue.

Barely 4 weeks old, my new X5 fell victim to an inattentive driver who changed lanes into the car’s right door, once again proving the physical law that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. I went to the dealer and asked if they could recommend a good auto body shop. It turned out that the dealer had its own auto body shop, so naturally I assumed that the car would be repaired with BMW OEM parts, including paint. At the time I got the estimate, I specifically asked if they would use BMW OEM paint and I was assured that they would. When I asked which paint brand would be used I was told that the shop exclusively used PPG (the automotive coatings division of Pittsburgh Paints).

I decided to research the paint brand/type, and found that getting that information was not easy. The dealer, which also sells other makes of automobiles, had no idea. Calls to the BMW factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina, were unproductive as well, as BMW has established a rather effective barrier around its “customer service” department. After several calls and “sleuthing” on the internet, I was finally able to determine that the Spartanburg factory, where the X5, Z3 and Z4 models are manufactured, uses exclusively Glasurit waterborne basecoat topped with a compatible Glasurit clearcoat (the electro-coat primer is supplied by another paint manufacturer). Glasurit is a German paint company owned by multinational giant BASF. Both firms have large marketing organizations in the US.

BMW began using waterborne paints, more environmentally friendly than solventborne, in its German factories when the German government mandated it use in the early ’90s. When BMW constructed the Spartanburg plant, it set up the paint facility to use only waterborne paints, possibly because they expected the US to impose similar restrictions. Waterborne paints are more difficult to apply, thus very few aftermarket (auto body repair) shops have invested in the special equipment needed. Fortunately, solventborne paint is compatible with waterborne. In fact, BMW issued a contract to Glasurit to supply solventborne paint to its Greer, South Carolina plant (adjacent to the Spartanburg plant), a training facility which is also used to repair and repaint company owned automobiles. In contrast to BMW’s secretive nature about it production procedures, Glasurit personnel were very forthcoming and informative. I was told that Glasurit delivers a paint to BMW based on its “90 Line”, modified slightly for use in the specially constructed robotic sprayers at the Spartanburg plant.

In speaking with several auto body shop personnel, the general consensus of opinion was that although PPG made a fine quality basecoat, their clearcoat was not as good as Glasurit’s. The clearcoat contains an ultraviolet inhibitor, designed to protect the basecoat from the sun’s rays, and is more durable than the basecoat, resisting scratches.

The bottom line is, although several manufacturers produce fine quality paints, each has its own formulation and will tend to age differently. Aging results in a slight “fading” and “yellowing” of the paint. Fading is most apparent on dark colors and yellowing most apparent on white or very light colors. Paint aging is inevitable, the goal is to get the entire car to age at the same rate and to the same degree. The best way to achieve this is to stay with the same paint manufacturer. So here it is guys, for aftermarket repairs, BMW and Glasurit recommend using Glasurit’s “55 Line” basecoat topped with their “923-109” clearcoat.

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