The over 150-year old Axalta Coating Systems, headquartered in Philadelphia, manages its business in 5 regions servicing North America, Latin America (including Mexico), China, East and South Asia, and Europe, Middle East and Africa. Its products increase
Axalta ready to support OEMs with ecofriendly coatings: Charles W. Shaver and Sober Sethi
Q: In commercial vehicles, we could see more colours. How do you see the trend and is there any segment that is keen on new colour schemes?
It always depends on what the customer wants. I can see a lot of younger generations doing business and want their vehicles to be unique and attractive. Corporate identity is becoming a bigger part and they want their vans and trucks to have distinct identity in the market which did not exist in the past. Tata is coming with new colours like sunrise orange in CVs which we are supplying to them. That is great for us to move to new colours which are bright, shiny and look better. Therefore, it is the right time for us to be in India.
Globally, the inside and outside of vehicles are becoming a sort of commodity. The styling and colours give you the difference. The interiors of most of the vehicles look similar and in India most of the vehicles look similar even outside. But now, we are seeing a lot of companies working on unique colours. It is an ideal time to be in India. Consumers continue to want to be delighted with new and fresh designs, colours and special effects.
Q: As you said, colours play a vital role in differentiating products especially in the Indian market. Apart from it, what else drives Axalta alongside Indian customers and OEMs?
The first thing is productivity. For example, we introduced to one of our customers directto- metal product which avoids primer. It takes a process away and it is more competitive. You can make more in a short time so, productivity is always a criterion which drives all. And in some cases, if you look at the refinish, environment-friendly water bond technology is widely used. Some of our OEMs are not using it but some of their body shops wants to use our water bond paints. In a mass production, it varies from productivity, colour differentiation, ownership, and dealership. So it is about showing the sustainability and it varies from business to business. We provide a range of performance and transportation coatings for manufacturers of light and commercial vehicles, the refinish aftermarket and for many industrial coating system applications.
Q: There is a transformation from solvent-based to solid waterborne paints. How do you see the trend in the Indian market as there are many value additions in terms of higher productivity?
It makes a little bit difference in what segment you are in. As I said earlier, refinish body shops will see more waterborne paints but it will be slower in industrial area. The waterborne coatings are a source of less toxins going into the environment. There are higher levels of toxins in the air long after the painting is completed when using a solvent-based paint. Waterborne coatings are a non-flammable, non-toxic and non-hazardous way to paint your equipment. This is the perfect option when looking for a paint coating that meets the clean air regulations fully. There should be push from the government, like we see in China.
Q: Apart from Government’s push, what kind of cost difference do solvent and waterborne paints have?
Waterborne paints will cost more. But you can use less
and its productivity is more. For example, solvent-based paint takes 4 to 6 hours to spray whereas waterborne takes less than an hour. Therefore waterborne is 3 to 4 times more productive and higher volumes in less consumption time. At the same time switching to waterborne in India is a big deal as the entire set up for waterborne has to be changed which will cost around $30-40 million.
Q: Do OEMs take the lead in the waterborne business as its volume is more and productivity has to be increased from their side?
It is up to them. Sometimes, they may not want to make a large capital investment or shut down their production line for a while. So, if they open a new plant somewhere as they look for a change over, we are ready to support them, as our plant is ready now. The best thing is to have a dialogue with them as OEMs will be more comfortable as we are ready for that. Also, in India, the decision of the customer enhances productivity, cost etc. We certainly support environmentfriendly coatings and we believe that having many customers is the solution.
Q: The automobile industry is in a transition. Many companies are working on light-weighting, composite materials etc. As a paint manufacturer, how are you going to work with the same paint but on different materials and how will you show your uniqueness?
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. Therefore, lightweighting will continue to be a big deal and it gets more complex because you have to get the strength, weight ratio and crash test. Due to different materials, we cannot necessarily use the same primer that we use on the car body. All of these technical issues will make it more complex. Corrosion resistance will need to be optimised and improved. So, for each one, the primer will be different for the change of material. The use of different primer and the same paint on the parts will produce different colours. All coating layers will have to be modified for the different use of material.
Q: How do you say that Axalta gives performance products?
Shaver: We differentiate our products. The performance can be either in paints or in the application. So its process, product on technology and that is the way we define others. Customers can get different colours or colour through our excellent performance which shows we are better than our competitors. We develop, manufacture and sell wide selection performance and transportation coatings. Many automotive and light truck original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) rely on Axalta to deliver performance and incomparable colour palettes. From superior corrosion protection of our electrocoats to lush basecoat colours and topcoats, we create an attractive finish that will tolerate under the roughest weather and road conditions. Singular focus on providing brilliant coatings make us stand out from the crowd. We do not think about anything else except painting.
Q: Axalta plays a vital role in the Indian automotive industry. How do you view the other industries like aerospace, defence and the railways in India?
For the Railways, we are supplying a new primer for bogies made out of carbon steel, sand blasting etc. I would say 30% of its carriages today are using stainless steel. It will take some time but we are keen about it. In Defence, we do get some orders and paint some weapons of particular colour.
In the aerospace business, we do some component paintings, which is not a different segment for us. We looked at doing an acquisition in aerospace to get bigger and we were quite busy in our other business. We will develop a bigger position for us in the aerospace industry. Quality always remains in our aero part.
Q: What will be your focus in the aerospace industry? Will you be bringing any particular product for that industry?
We will continue to focus on parts like tails, ailerons and noses. The complete knowledge about the industry will be acquired before that. So that, we will be able to stand pretty good. Moreover, $50 million market is not a huge one for us. We have got bigger things to do at first hand. But, we would like to work in aerospace.
Q: Have you adopted any best practices in India that you follow in some of your plants globally?
The design of the new Savli plant is based on our Jiading plant in China which we built 3 years ago. It was highly automated, lean and we took that for India. In India, we will learn more about the cost than China and the US facilities. And, we may implement our practices and learnings we get from this plant in other facilities in future. I am sure the learnings will keep us better.
Q: In the next 5 years, among commercial vehicles, twowheelers and passenger cars, in which will Axalta take a deeper route?
I would say, if you look at the size of the market, the numbers will grow more in passenger cars, then twowheelers and commercial vehicles. In the next 5 years, the market share in India for all the 3 sectors will be around $500600 million out of which $300 million would be from passenger cars, $150-180 would be two- wheelers and the remaining would be from commercial vehicles. So, we will continue working on all the segments and since we are ready with the new plant, we are ready to cater to all of them and the dialogues are also on. Now I will not be able to disclose the customer names. In fact, the first batches from our new plant are ready for despatch to our two-wheeler and commercial vehicle customers.
Q: Are you working with any new customers here in India?
We are working with new customers in India but those are all at initial stages. But we are working with our existing customers like Bajaj Auto for their new projects. We are also working with a major commercial vehicle manufacturer for their new LCV project.
Sober Sethi, Vice President and President, Emerging Markets and Charles Shaver, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Axalta.
Charles Shaver signing the first can being filled at the Savli plant
Shaver pushing the button on HMI to commence the production