Tinted primers and the ability to change tint between vehicles depending on each one’s top coat colour are a claimed world first for the new paint shop at PSA Peugeot Citroën’s key Mulhouse plant in France, opened on Thursday by CEO Jean-Martin Folz.

The new, €250-million ‘turn-key’ paint shop was built in response to higher production volumes, the introduction of heavier and larger vehicles and changes in regulatory standards, all of which required an upgrade of the existing 30-year-old production facilities.

The 56,000-square-metre paint shop is equipped with 590 workstations and at full ramp-up will be able to paint an average of 87 vehicles per hour, or 1,827 vehicles per day in three shifts.

Thirty vehicles a day will be painted during the start-up period, which will run until December. This period will be used to set the roughly 25,000 application parameters and verify installation reliability. Production will then rise to 900 vehicles per day until March 2004, and subsequently increase to 1,827 vehicles per day, at which time the older paint shop will be shut down.

The facility is designed to deliver lower production costs than today’s most efficient paint shops, while responding to high quality standards, the versatility of vehicle models, environmental concerns, workstation practices and manufacturing flexibility.

Significant innovations have been introduced at all stages of the paint application process, the most advanced of which is the previously mentioned substitution of tinted powder primers for liquid primers. PSA is claiming a world first for its use of tinted primers and the ability to change tint between vehicles depending on each one’s top coat colour.

Other plants use one powder primer tint, whereas PSA Peugeot Citroën is the only car maker to use a number of tints (light, medium and dark grey, red and yellow) in a high line speed process.

The new paint shop also reflects PSA Peugeot Citroën’s commitment to environmental protection, the company said. The painting process and technologies used in the new unit have reduced emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 50%, water consumption by 30% and solid waste production by 25%. Chromium and lead are no longer used.

Another objective was to improve working conditions by integrating them far upstream in the paint shop design process. Specific arrangements, such as adjustable handling devices to bring the bodies up to an appropriate height, onboard workstations and separation of automated process areas from manual work areas, were introduced to facilitate the work of operators and improve shop floor conditions.