In 1998 Volkswagen recognized the need for significant changes in their automotive painting and finishing processes. They challenged paint suppliers to develop products and processes towards lower cost, higher quality, and environmentally friendlier systems.
Volkswagen was therefore already receptive when DuPont presented them with an innovative basecoat and paint process, called EcoConcept, which reduced both the number of paint steps and the emissions. The reward would be lower cost and environmental improvement. The potential downside included steep learning curves and risks related to new paint-shop systems.
The DuPont "EcoConcept" involved meter-mixing a reactive compound into the first basecoat layer. This eliminated a separate primer application by including all the primer functions in the basecoat. Before "EcoConcept," the primer layer was responsible for providing stone chip resistance and protecting the lower layer from damaging ultra-violet radiation.
The risks were high, but the reward for success would be substantial. Volkswagen decided to suspend its usual model for supplier selection, which has suppliers submit against specifications until all requirements are fulfilled, and only then make a decision. In 2000 Volkswagen started to work with DuPont in a close collaboration to innovate a new paint process.
Working together, Volkswagen and DuPont dealt with the problems related to meter-mixing and film-build. At the same time DuPont developed production technology for unprecedented quality and consistency. By 2003 a trial in Wolfsburg coated 800 vehicles and proved the collaborative approach valid and EcoConcept ready for commercialization.
Launch was in 2005 at Volkswagen's plant in Puebla, Mexico. It provided needed increased capacity without investment in primer facilities. Soon after, "EcoConcept" was launched at Volkswagen's paint shop in Pamplona, Spain. EcoConcept is also being considered for a plant in Russia in 2008.
As a result of the collaboration with DuPont, Volkswagen has enjoyed the benefits of its new approach and vision - low cost and environmental enhancement. Without a change in the way Volkswagen interacted with its supplier, DuPont, this vision would not have become reality.