PPG is huge with hues in the auto industry

February 15, 2012 10:49 am
  • Models are painted and assembled at BMW's manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, S.C.
    Models are painted and assembled at BMW's manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, S.C.
  • Cindy Niekamp, PPG's senior vice president, automotive coatings, addresses the media at the Detroit Auto Show last month.
    Cindy Niekamp, PPG's senior vice president, automotive coatings, addresses the media at the Detroit Auto Show last month.
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One local company that will be all over the Pittsburgh International Auto Show won't have even have a booth.

Downtown-based coatings, chemicals and glass company PPG Industries has a huge presence in the automotive industry. Its colors cover everything from the new Dodge Dart to the Ford Fusion, the BMW 3 series and every car on display from Mini Cooper. Even that subtle matte black finish on the Mercedes Benz was created by PPG.

Every year, when the automakers are designing their new lines, the automotive team from PPG presents 70 colors that the car companies can use for new cars.

Jane Harrington, the manager of the color styling at PPG's plant in Troy, Mich., said her team develops the color palettes by watching styles and trends in other areas.

But the hottest new shades for couches or sweaters aren't the colors that wind up on cars. Ms. Harrington said car makers may look at the selection, then request further tweaking -- more of a metallic flake, for instance, so a car will sparkle.

At the moment, the trend is one that could liven up the nation's roads. "You're seeing a lot more color. A lot more manufacturers are using brighter, cleaner colors," she said.

Still, despite all of the innovations and new shadings that PPG offers, the top four colors on cars sold in 2011 were white, black, silver and gray, she said.

Even in those colors, Ms. Harrington said, there are an incredible number of variations, so that one black car may be very different from another black car.

PPG's roots in the automotive coating business can be traced to the time before automobiles.

The company stretches back to Peter and Fred Ditzler, carriage finishers from Pennsylvania who moved their business to Detroit and sold colored varnishes to Ford and Cadillac. In 1913, the Ditzlers sold the business to a group that had experience in the general paint business. That group developed a product called Ditz-Lac, a form of lacquer that replaced color varnishes.

PPG bought Ditzler Color Co. in 1928. In 1947, the Ditzler Color Division of the company was combined with another company that PPG acquired: Forbes Varnish Co., which had become an industrial coatings company during World War II.

While PPG is developing new colors for the auto industry, it also is developing new ways to cut the cost of applying those colors to the vehicles.

Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699.
First Published 2012-02-14 23:25:06

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