Will BMW’s New Technology Compete with Wrap Businesses?

Our world is increasingly digitized. From currency to cars to newspapers, how people pay, commute and consume news continues to evolve. BMW’s new iX Flow concept car possesses technology that allows the body’s color to shift from shades of white, gray and black. The development begs the question: Will the new technology flood the wrap market with competition?

Garwood says the tech appeals to automotive enthusiasts.

What’s the Word?

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big killer to the wrap industry because I think they’re only going to implement the technology into higher-end models,” says Hunter Garwood, general manager of All Pro Window Films in Raleigh, N.C. “It’s going to serve a limited clientele. Most of the vehicles we’re wrapping are in the value of $40,000 to $120,000.”

BMW’s technology incorporates E Ink’s electronic paper technology, which can be found on e-reader devices such as the Amazon Kindle. Car wraps comprise 10% of the business at Automotive Film Specialists in Houston, Texas. General manager Mike Norng doesn’t envision BMW’s baby mirroring the versatility of vinyl and says, “You have stripes and other options with vinyl. If a car is only changing its color, you can still do other things.”

Jacob Caudy, owner of h2o Window Tinting in Tarpon Springs, Fla., is entrenched in the car wrap market. Sixty percent of his business stems from the segment, yet the 19-year veteran isn’t concerned. In fact, he sees the invention as a potential service offering if it’s ever installable.

“When the computer came out, everyone working in a warehouse was going, ‘The computer is evil; I’m not going to use a computer,’” Caudy says. “It’s the same thing with plotters. Plotters came out, and all these hand cutters brag about how they’ve been tinting for 30 years. It’s like a competition—it’s two sides. Who cares? Learn to use everything to your advantage.”

To Fligor, car customization is an art form that requires a human touch.

Elite Wraps & Window Tinting LLC is located in Lebanon, Ohio, and has vinyl to thank for 60% of its business. Owner-operator Julian Fligor says the customization option lacks a human element.

“Vinyl wrapping and color changing is a process, and it’s an art,” Fligor says. “I think they’re relying too much on the technical side of this. I would much rather not only do the install process but have that one-on-one conversation with the client.”

What if?

The headline-grabbing, eye-popping personalization doesn’t seem a threat in the near-term, but what about the long-term?

“If it were to become a threat, the speed of the technology would outweigh the actual labor of installing film on a car,” Garwood explains. “It reduces liability, as far as taking cars apart, wrapping them and putting them back together. Only time will tell over the next five to ten years. I don’t think it’s going to be something immediate. I think it’s something they’re testing to see if they have a clientele for it or not.”

Garwood’s company had $1.7 million in sales in 2020 and $2.3 million in 2021. He says the commercial segment is starting to see the rise of technological films, which could be a sign of things to come.

Norng’s team works on many wraps.

“We’re installing electronic films on windows, [where they’re going from clear to frost],” Garwood says. “You’re going to see a manufacturer incorporate it into the automotive industry like BMW is now.”

Caudy has worked through similar industry evolutions and says, “A few years ago, they had color-changing film, and it used to be the craziest thing in the world. Now you have commercial projects where you hit a switch and the windows are black. You hit another switch, and you can see right through. Dimmable windows—that’s going to be the new technology of cars. Why not use that to your advantage? Push different products and evolve with it.”

Norng says color changing and color-shifting paint protection film (PPF) offers value.

“It will be the next big thing because it will do two things,” he says. “Color change wraps are only for looks, but PPF wraps will do both. You get paint protection and an aesthetic—you can change color.”

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