BASF: Increased interest in sustainable coatings solutions
You have Automotive Coatings Application Centers in China, Japan, Thailand and India. What role do those centers play?
Sabrina Platzek: A paint formulation is only great when it works smoothly in the customer-applied paint process. Therefore, understanding and optimizing the various paint processes in combination with paint formulation expertise is the foundation of BASF Coatings’ R&D activities. BASF’s Automotive Coatings Application Centers enable us to mimic various coatings processes used in Automotive OEM production globally. Therefore, we employ state-of-the-art equipment and robotics with electrostatic application. Furthermore, gaining process expertise will increasingly be important when working on sustainable solutions to help OEMs reach their sustainability targets. Based on a recent lifecycle assessment conducted by BASF, we estimate that around 25% to 35% of total CO2 emissions during the car production process are generated from the paint shop. This indicates the huge influence coatings materials have to reduce CO2 emissions.
You expanded the Automotive Coatings Application Center in India. What is the background for this decision?
Platzek: BASF Coatings aims to be as close as possible to its customers. This has been our strategy globally for a long time as it enables us to react timely to customer requirements and accommodate local market specifics. On the other hand, India is the world’s fourth largest automotive market for four wheelers and number one in two wheelers with a very positive outlook of growth in the subsequent years. India has different kinds of solvent-borne technology with the presence of European, Japanese, Korean, American, Chinese and Indian OEMs deserving more agility in R&D from paint manufacturers. BASF Coatings aims to be a reliable partner for all OEMs and supports them to achieve high standard coating performance. This was our motivation to invest in a state-of-the-art Application Center for automotive coatings. This enables BASF to carry out a large number of line simulations under all of India’s climatic conditions for the large number of car manufacturers. High standard coating performance and customer satisfaction are the key drivers for our investment.
How does the expansion look in detail?
Platzek: We have expanded our existing Automotive Coatings Application Center with new state-of-the-art equipment such as high precision climate-controlled spray booth, electrostatic rotary bell applicators, and advanced quick connection system for electrostatic applications. This facility will simulate all paint application procedures of all OEMs irrespective of the technologies and combination of robotics at OEMs. BASF will further strengthen specific development to meet the demand of all OEMs, including co-development with customers. This will also enable us to respond to local customer needs in the future and to drive new developments together with our customers.
Market with tremendous growth potential
The facility has been designed for customer centered R&D activities. What is the focus of R&D in India at the moment?
Platzek: When we look at the automotive coatings market in India, car manufacturers show an increased interest in sustainable coatings solutions such as integrated processes, high solid and low bake coatings technologies. Additionally, with the rise in electromobility, BASF partners with its customers when it comes to innovative and exclusive color design and products that can be applied on multiple substrates such as lightweight materials. At the same time, India will remain a cost sensitive market which means that any innovation needs to balance performance and costs to compete in the market.
For BASF, the expansion is an important addition on the market in India. Please describe the Indian market for automotive coatings. Which developments do you expect?
Platzek: India is without doubt a market with tremendous growth potential. This becomes obvious when looking at Indian’s population combined with economic indicators such as GDP per capita or cars per capita. According to some market studies, India has roughly 40 cars per 1,000 inhabitants while it is over 570 cars per 1,000 inhabitants in Germany. So, the question is not if India has potential, but rather when it will unfold. The fact that there is a highly diverse OEM landscape in India underlines the huge growth potential. While we see very strong growth with Indian OEMs such as Tata Motors and Mahindra Auto, European, Japanese, Korean, American and Chinese OEMs are present as well. Additionally, some car manufacturers produce models for the domestic market as well as exports which increases the variety of models. The automotive coatings market will certainly benefit from the growth outlook, and it is important to provide suitable solutions for the local market needs and diverse customer landscape. For us, this means having a cost-effective offering combined with outstanding quality and technical field service. Additionally, with BASF’s ambition to become the sustainability leader in the automotive coatings industry, we will continue to proactively offer sustainable solutions to shape the transformation to a greener industry – in India and globally.
Where do you see potentials and challenges in India?
Platzek: Over the recent years, the India automotive market was characterised by high fluctuations which were driven by newly introduced emission standards and other regulations, followed by the Covid-19 outbreak and its related shortages and logistical challenges. We do expect those dynamics will continue in the short-term. However, at the same time this year we see a strong market performance so far which is manifested by the fact that India has now become the number four automotive market globally. Combined with strong automotive exports from India, these are very promising indicators of a strong market development going forward.
The Automotive Coatings Application Center not only strengthens the position in India but also the R&D activities in the Asia Pacific region. Please explain this in detail.
Platzek: In BASF we strongly believe in the power of our “Verbund”. This does not only hold true for our own production processes, but also when it comes to our people. While we’ll continue to strengthen our local presence in attractive markets, such as China, Japan and ASEAN in Asia, we ensure knowledge exchange and cross-country or cross-regional collaboration at the same time. This enables us to accelerate our R&D outcome and bring state-of-the-art solutions to our customers. Furthermore, we can ensure the same quality standards globally which is of utmost importance and a key differentiator when working with global automotive manufacturers.