THAT’S A WRAP

THE CASE FOR AUTOMOTIVE WRAPS 

BY KATE NG 

Are paints going out of fashion in the autobody industry? The nitty-gritty of the answer comes down to economics. In terms of application, painting is an extended process. The steps of sanding, priming and layering are done in thin layers over time, finished off with a protective coat. When done quickly, the paint can be uneven, look inconsistent or flake off when sneezed at too hard.

“Picture a big sticker going over the car. There are no chemicals involved in wraps. Just vinyl, a squeegee and a heat gun,” said Stas Kravchuk, founder of Wraptors Inc. in Mississauga, Ontario.

Ease of application doesn’t mean the technician is less skilled: it means a shorter turnaround, meaning customers may be more willing to switch colours regularly. “We have plenty of customers with exotic vehicles like G wagons will switch the colours out every few seasons to stand out,” said Kravchuk. “I had a customer who wanted to surprise their wife. When we’re done, it’s clean, has a tint and a vibrant new colour. It’s like a new vehicle again.”

Aside from a makeover, wraps add a protective element to the vehicle, acting like a shield between the factory finish and the outside world. “If I take the wrap off after five years, the paint probably hasn’t been subjected to the elements. It keeps the clear coat,” said Chris Wood, senior body technician at Leon’s Auto Body. “Keeping a vehicle as it came from the factory increases its resale value.”

Where paint excels, however, is in corner cases where the customer has very specific needs. Think of unconventional vehicle surfaces, a lifelong colour scheme, or painting over a single panel rather than the entire vehicle. “There are some place wraps don’t hold, like rounded edges and around the taillights and headlights,” said Hannah Kasiri, owner of Lucky 13 Autobody and Paint in Edmonton. “If someone is painting their vehicle, it’s crucial they understand that it’s permanent. Wraps aren’t, they can change it if they don’t love it or sell it.”

That said, paint’s advantages appear to be almost entirely technical. Its longevity can be a pro or a con, depending on your customer’s needs. Most technicians said they would elect for a more permanent paintjob, when it comes to classic cars like the Bel Air 1957. “I’ve seen some pretty amazing designs like chameleon wraps, it’s come such a long way. Wraps can look nice, but you have to get into the grade A products,” said Hannah.

So why aren’t big names wrapping? When it comes to the future of car finishes, things are less than clear. Wraps may be cheaper and easier to apply, but properly applied paints can last a lifetime in a warehouse.

“Wraps aren’t durable enough. They have a five-year shelf life and as a rubberized product, degrade in the sun,” said Allen Hayward, owner of Renu Auto Appearance, a facility specializing in vehicle paint. “Paint isn’t as vulnerable. Manufacturers want the paint to last for the vehicle’s lifetime.” “It all depends on the demand for wrapping, Tesla already has a dedicated shop to repair and wrap their vehicles,” said Joseph Esperanzate, head of Internal Operations at ModifyMe. “Wrapping is cheaper for manufacturers; a paint job costs more in material and paints.”

“I haven’t heard about the industry wrapping vehicles but there are components that are wrapped from the OEM,” said Wood. “If I take a wrap off after five years, it probably hasn’t been subjected to the elements.” When asked if the average customer would ever choose paint over a full wrap, Chris said “I don’t see why. Repainting isn’t practical.”

BY KATE NG

“We have plenty of customers with exotic vehicles like G wagons will switch the colours out every few seasons to stand out.”

Stas Kravchuk, Founder of Wraptors Inc.

“Wraps aren’t durable enough. They have a five-year shelf life and as a rubberized product, degrade in the sun.”

—Allen Hayward 

Owner of Renu Auto Appearance

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