Axalta marks 150th birthday

Axalta Coating Systems celebrated 150 years of history by looking to the future with the launch of its newly-expanded European Technology Center (ETC) in Wuppertal, Germany last week.

Journalists from all over Europe, including bodyshop magazine deputy editor Alan Feldberg, were invited to celebrate the June 8 launch with Axalta’s leadership team, headed by chairman and CEO Charlie Shaver.

He said, ‘All of us at Axalta are excited to reach this important milestone in our company’s history. This year we will celebrate our past, but even more importantly, continue to build on our extensive knowledge and experience for the next 150 years. We will continue to use advanced technologies to develop next generation coatings while providing outstanding quality and service in the years ahead.’

The company began life as Herberts Paint and Varnish Works back in 1866. To put that into perspective, US outlaw Jesse James robbed his first bank that year, Florence Nightingale was still alive and War and Peace had yet to be written.

For the next century and a bit Herberts thrived in an evolving industry until, in 1999, it was acquired by DuPont, which was subsequently reborn as Axalta Coating Systems in 2013. Now operating in more than 130 countries with annual sales revenues exceeding £2.9bn, Axalta is the world’s fifth largest coatings company and number one refinish company.

But while Axalta is rightly proud of its past, its focus is on the future and it’s not by accident that its landmark year has been marked not only by an expansion of its ETC but also a special Innovation Forum at Wuppertal Town Hall. The Forum featured trailblazing colour trends based on the last four years of Axalta’s Colour Show, as well as ground-breaking solutions tailored to meet customer needs.

Barry Snyder, Axalta senior vice president and chief technology officer, said, ‘Research and Development is core to who we are. Our customers rely on us to solve their problems with new technology; not only new products, but new ways to use our products. In that sense, the biggest thing our history does for us is give us latitude, the ability to quickly find solutions and adapt them. We’re able to bring things out of the toolbox to match a particular problem and get it to market quickly.’

Among the new technologies displayed at the Forum were 3D printing, automated colour mixing and a refinishing process based on humidity – due out in September – that can reduce process times from 205 minutes to 71 minutes.

Matthias Schönberg, Axalta vice president, and president Europe, Middle East and Africa, said, ‘We care about our customers’ productivity. We want bodyshops to be more productive because they use our products. It’s not just lip service; that vision drives us all.’

Serving light vehicle OEMs, commercial vehicles, the industrial and refinish industries, Axalta’s three premium global refinish brands are Spies Hecker, Cromax and Standox. Going forward, it plans to engender product and geographic growth by adding to its brand portfolio through a policy of strategic acquisition, with technology and market access its two overriding drivers.

Charles Shaver explained, ‘We completed four acquisitions last year and are on target to do another four or five this year, so I think you’ll see quite a bit of activity in the second half of the year. We look to grow sales organically by five to seven per cent each year – with acquisitions we expect that to be more than 10 per cent.’

If those targets are met, that means sales in excess of £4.9bn within five years.

Charles concluded, ‘If you own a car or truck, you probably have our paint on it. That speaks to our breadth. It’s a position we enjoy, and will continue to defend.’