The demand for dramatic car paint finishes is on the rise – individuality, sportiness, and value are being coveted more and more. A matte finish highlights the silhouette of a vehicle, brings its sublime design and sporty elegance to the forefront, and gives the vehicle an extra special note. “Design remains the top reason for purchasing an Audi. And the color of the vehicle is extremely important, as it’s an expression of a driver’s personality,” says Susan Nolte, responsible for exterior colours within the Product Marketing Special Equipment team at Audi. However, before a new exterior colour can be ordered for an Audi, a number of different processes have to have taken place.
How does Audi determine colours and variations of paint?Coming up with colour suggestions for a new model is the job of the Colour & Trim team of Audi Design and the Product Marketing team, who work in close collaboration. The first step is for the Design colleagues to work out new colours based on trends that are tracked by the design studios in Ingolstadt, Beijing, and Malibu. Product Marketing then ensures that Audi customers can choose from a wide array of colours. Finally, appropriate names are selected for the offer on hand.
What role do colour descriptions play?Another key aspect in the acceptance of the colours offered by Audi is what the names communicate. “What is particularly important here is that the names given to the colors describe each colour as precisely as possible. The first part of the name is the creative element, but it also needs to evoke a connection with the color,” explains Nolte. Audi often uses terms inspired by the world of geography and from flora and fauna. Racetracks also play a role in naming colours for sporty models. Some colours are used across all models while others are used for specific models. Audi offers up to a dozen different colour choices for any given model. And there are also special colours for RS models.
How the vehicle gets a matte finishModern paints are technically complex. In addition to the phosphate layer, the paint finish – with cathodic dip coating (CDP), filler, base coat, and clear coat – consists of five thin layers that together are no thicker than one-tenth of a millimeter. That’s about equivalent to the thickness of a strand of human hair. To meet the quality requirements of daily use in the long run, the paints undergo various short- and long-term tests, including stone-chip resistance and weathering tests. As part of the approval process, Audi also checks things such as the adhesion and corrosion resistance of the paint. The entire process of design, selection, technical implementation, and approval of the colours can take anywhere between three to five years. “Top-notch quality needs time, which is why, figuratively speaking, we think about tomorrow yesterday,” says Nolte. For the first time, matte exterior colours are possible for the Audi TT and Audi Q3 series manufactured in Győr. The lacquering process is carried out in parallel to the mass production of vehicles at the plant in Hungary. The primer, filler, and colour coats are followed by the clear matte coat, which contains matting agents in the form of silicate particles. This is applied directly to the base coat. The thickness of its layers ranges between 40 to 50 micrometers, or in other words, 40 to 50 thousandths of a millimeter, as with conventional clear coats. The matting agents lend the surface its characteristic matte finish. With its surface structure, matte paint reflects light diffusely instead of directionally, thus achieving the matte look. Once the body is painted, automated and manual measurements and quality checks follow – including in the light tunnel.
The real question is, which one are you picking?