Outside of a vehicle’s exterior design, it’s highly likely that the color is the most noticeable and memorable. And while paining a vehicle might be seen as mundane and commonplace, the process is anything but, involving an intricate chemical operation necessitating constant scientific monitoring.
At General Motors, members of the “Blue Suit Crew” adhere to painstaking precautions to ensure that final vehicle paint finishes are pristine. For instance, many ordinary items of personal hygiene, including lotion, cologne, hair spray, deodorant and silicon, are prohibited in GM paint shops “because their mere presence can cause the new paint to contaminate the paint”, according to the automaker. In addition, paint shop employees are continuously on the lookout for sources of paint contamination, searching for clues and hunting down potential contaminants.
“The process of painting a vehicle properly is much harder than the average person would assume,” said Anton Busuttil, paint shop area manager at GM’s Orion Assembly Plant in Lake Orion, Michigan. “We have many different factors that we have to be cognizant of at all times”. “The weather – including temperature and humidity – is one of those major factors over which we have no control.”
The Blue Suit Crew’s ultimate goal is a perfect finish.
“There are precise stages each vehicle goes through in order to leave GM’s paint shop with phenomenal colors,” Busuttil said. “The vehicles are prepped, dipped in treatment, and sprayed with PVC antichip material, primer, base coat and finally clear coat. The vehicles are then checked to ensure they are in compliance in terms of quality, if they meet expectations they are sent to General Assembly to continue the build process.”
Browse the gallery below to see steps of GM’s vehicle paint process, and think about it the next time you drive or see a GM vehicle.