By Digital Output Staff
Vehicle wraps are used in a number of industries for two reasons—marketing and customization. One segment benefiting from vehicle wraps is the automotive aftermarket. This category generally favors color change films over printed graphics.
“Color change films provide a cost-effective alternative to paint, allowing owners to change the appearance of their vehicles without the need for repainting. They are available in a range of colors, textures, and finishes, making them highly versatile,” explains Ryan Allen, regional technical specialist, North America, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions.
Above: EVOLV’s color change film collection includes more than 100 colors and effects.
Color change films’ popularity in the automotive aftermarket is influenced by customization trends, economic factors, and advancements in material technology—to name a few.
Custom wraps are an extension of the consumer’s personality. “Individuals increasingly turn to color change films to give cars a unique appearance,” explains Allen. He believes demand related to customization has actually increased throughout the years because more people continue to look for ways to express individuality through their vehicles.
“Vinyl, particularly color change films, are increasingly popular for individuals and businesses looking to customize and rejuvenate the look of their vehicles without committing to a permanent paint job,” agrees Mattia Casarotto, area manager, EVOLV.
Furthermore, “the rise of social media and car enthusiast communities has amplified the desire for customization as individuals showcase their unique vehicles online,” continues Casarotto.
With the automotive aftermarket shifting towards ecommerce and digital marketing, it is easier than ever before for consumers to choose colors, finishes, and textures to change their car’s appearance. “The automotive aftermarket industry has seen a significant shift towards ecommerce and digital marketing. Online platforms make it easier for consumers to discover and purchase color change films, contributing to increased demand,” shares Allen.
While color change films offer an easy way to customize a vehicle, they provide another function. “Many of these films also offer paint protection, shielding the vehicle’s original finish from chips and scratches. This added value attracts consumers interested in preserving their vehicle’s resale value,” admits Allen.
“Keeping the original paint job intact by using vinyl films can help maintain or even increase the vehicle’s resale value. Potential buyers may appreciate the preservation of the original paint, and the option to keep or remove the vinyl wrap as they see fit,” notes Casarotto.
Allen says consumers are more interested in maintaining higher resale values on their vehicles than ever before, which aligns with the benefits of color change film offering paint protection. “With more people recognizing the importance of vehicle aesthetics in resale, there’s a growing market for color change films as a protective measure.”
Economic factors are at play in other ways. “Repainting a car can be expensive, with high-quality jobs costing several thousand dollars. In contrast, a high-quality vinyl wrap might cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, making it more economical for many,” shares Casarotto.
“During periods of economic uncertainty, people may be more inclined to customize their existing vehicles rather than investing in a new one, which can drive demand for color change films,” says Allen.
With more consumers leasing versus purchasing vehicles, Casarotto believes color change films are also effected. “There’s a growing market of individuals who want to personalize their cars but are restricted from making permanent changes. Color change films allow for customization without violating lease terms, and they can be removed easily at the end of the lease period.”
Another reason for increased demand—advancements in color change film technology. “These films are easier to apply and remove, making them more accessible to a broader audience. Improved durability and quality have boosted consumer confidence in color change films, leading to higher demand,” notes Allen.
“Advancements in color change film technology have expanded the options available to consumers. From color shifting film finishes to matte and satin textures, the diversity of available choices has fueled interest and demand,” adds Casarotto.
Colors, Textures, Finishes
New colors, textures, and finishes are constantly launched to cater to demand from the automotive aftermarket. The products available for sale are vetted by many parties from consumers to installers.
Market research is key, admits Allen. “This involves the study of evolving consumer preferences, style trends, and feedback from enthusiasts. It’s essential to align color and texture choices with the latest trends and emerging fashions, as they play a pivotal role in automotive customization.”
Gathering insight from installers and end users is also a part of the development process. “Those on the front lines—the installers—have valuable insights into customer preferences and can provide feedback on which colors or textures customers are asking for. End users, through their purchasing choices and feedback, play a significant role in indicating which colors and textures are popular and which new ones they might desire,” shares Casarotto.
Besides consumer preference, other reasons colors, textures, and finishes are brought to market involve environmental and technological advancements. “Environmental considerations influence decisions, leading to the development of more eco-friendly options. Technological advancements also contribute to innovative textures and special effects, expanding the range of choices,” says Allen.
“The capabilities of manufacturing processes and the availability of new materials can influence the creation of new textures and finishes. For instance, advancements in manufacturing might allow for the creation of a unique finish or texture that wasn’t possible before,” adds Casarotto.
Behind the scenes, development times vary. In any case, the process at Avery Dennison includes concept design, testing, prototyping, and quality control. “This comprehensive approach ensures that the new colors and textures not only align with market demands and trends but also meet rigorous quality standards and manufacturing feasibility before introduction to the market,” explains Allen.
Film and Adhesive
As with any material and its applicable application, it is important to dive into their physical composition, how they are manufactured, and any other permanent characteristics.
Color change films used in automotive aftermarket applications are generally calendered. The main reasons for this involve durability, conformability, and consistent performance.
“Cast films are manufactured through a casting process that ensures precise control over thickness and uniformity, resulting in thinner yet highly durable film that can retain and reset its memory. In the segment of automotive aftermarket, where exposure to diverse weather conditions and road debris is common, the longevity and resilience of cast films is essential,” shares Allen.
Casarotto adds that cast films tend to have a longer lifespan than calendered films. This is especially important for vehicle applications, where the film is exposed to various environmental conditions such as UV rays, rain, snow, and temperature fluctuations.
In addition, because the casting process produces films that are thinner compared to calendered, the reduced thickness aids in the film’s ability to conform to a vehicle’s curves and recesses, shares Casarotto.
The visual appeal of cast film can’t be overlooked. “Cast films exhibit excellent conformability, allowing them to wrap seamlessly around the curves, contours, and complex recesses of a vehicle’s body. This is crucial for achieving a smooth and uniform appearance. The high-gloss and smooth finish of cast film replicates the quality of a factory paint job, and their removability without adhesive residue or paint damage makes them ideal for temporary or semi-permanent installations,” says Allen.
Adhesives are equally important when discussing vehicle wraps. “The adhesives affiliated with color change films in the automotive aftermarket are chosen based on their ability to provide a durable bond that can withstand external environmental factors, while also offering flexibility and ease of use to installers. The goal is to ensure longevity, aesthetic appeal, and protection for the vehicle,” states Casarotto.
For color change films, pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSAs) are typically used for their flexibility as well as durability. “These adhesives offer a straightforward application process, relying on pressure for bonding rather than the need for additional chemicals or activators. This simplicity is particularly advantageous for users who choose to apply these films themselves. Additionally, PSAs often provide repositioning and slideable technology. This allows for adjustments during installation,” notes Allen.
Once installed, a PSA offers long-term adhesion. “This ensures color change films stay securely attached to the vehicle’s surface for an extended period, meeting the expectations of the automotive aftermarket market focused on both personalization and long-lasting results,” shares Allen.
Removability of the adhesive is particularly important in color change films. PSAs are designed to remove without leaving adhesive residue or damaging the original paint.
On the topic of removability, just how long are these films slated to last for? Casarotto says longevity depends on two factors—installation process and environmental conditions. “Exposure to harsh environmental conditions, such as intense sunlight, extreme temperatures, and high levels of pollution, can impact the film’s lifespan. A well maintained and protected vehicle may have longer lasting color change film.”
Familiarize with Change
Traditional sign shops offering vehicle wraps might not be familiar with color change films, and further may not work at all within the automotive aftermarket space. However, print service providers (PSPs) should recognize the available opportunity.
According to Allen, the automotive aftermarket is a growing and dynamic market with substantial demand for vehicle customization. In providing color change films, a print provider’s product portfolio becomes diversified and allows for attracting a broader customer base.
“Venturing into the realm of color change films for the automotive aftermarket can open up multiple avenues of revenue for PSPs, positioning them favorably in a niche, yet growing market segment,” suggests Casarotto.
Color change films help a print shop differentiate itself from the competition. “High-quality materials, expert installation, and a reputation for excellence can set a shop apart, attracting more customers and building a strong brand identity,” says Allen.
Allen cautions that color change films do require specialized skills and expertise to install correctly. That being said, in his experience, consumers are willing to pay for professional installation by certified staff.
When the job is done correctly, repeat business is earned. “Customer retention can lead to a steady stream of guaranteed revenue in the future,” adds Allen.
In summary, “catering to the automotive aftermarket with color change films can be profitable for print shops due to market growth, high profit margins, repeat business, cross-selling opportunities, and the ability to stand out in a competitive landscape,” notes Allen.
“The demand for vinyl films, particularly color change films, in the automotive aftermarket is driven by a combination of economic, aesthetic, and practical factors. As techniques improve and new styles emerge, this segment is expected to continue its upward trajectory,” foresees Casarotto.
Jan2024, Digital Output