Nobody else was as bold as Wörwag. Volkswagen wanted a real eye catcher. It got lime yellow. A color tone with charisma. It was the first time that Wörwag had developed a car body color for VW. It was soon promoted to become the official communication color of the new Golf generation. A company with a case of yellow fever.
The mood board shows a designer chair, splashes of paint, high-heeled shoes. All motifs are bathed in yellow tones. The scale ranges from chartreuse to a reddish yellow. The collage inspires Wörwag’s developers to come up with a new color tone. A tone that should be full and brilliant. A single tone, an eye catcher, a color not previously found anywhere.
A case for Nicole Hörner, who, in just a few clicks, can magic the order back on to her screen. Just like five years before. That’s how long it’s been since the head of the laboratory for design, pigments, and pastes set to work. The customer, Volkswagen, had issued the motto “Yellowation,” which nobody interpreted as boldly and extravagantly as Wörwag. The result is lime yellow. In Wolfsburg, where muted colors are usually the order of the day, the color was a particular novelty. “Yellow is a trendy color; everyone would like to have a shade in their range,” as Hörner can attest. “But very few make a yellow just like this. It really stands out.”
Yellow is a trend color, everyone wants to have one on offer. But hardly anyone makes a yellow like this. That stands out.
When the eighth generation of the VW Golf rolls off the assembly line at the end of 2019, it’s not only its designers who will be seeing yellow. Lime yellow is the official advertising color of the perennial hit car. Wörwag’s paint will shine in every brochure, on all posters, in advertising videos, on exhibition stands, and on press vehicles. Its developers agree: “Even though I’ve seen the tone so many times, I still love it,” Hörner admits. “I’m excited to find out how it will look on the finished vehicle.”
Christian Bischoff shares in the anticipation. As Head of Sales Mangement OEM/VW Group, he set up the project a good five years ago. He now coordinates Wörwag’s development and production with Wolfsburg. He, too, can hardly wait to see the Golf on the road bearing its signal color. The lime yellow has had a long journey. It is a prime example of how Wörwag works in partnership with its customers to bring a coating to production readiness.
For Wörwag, the body paint for the Golf VIII was a flagship project that was also the subject of much internal discussion. Particularly as the focus had previously been on coating plastic attachment parts. Bischoff: “The project is a gateway to supplying VW with more body paints. The painting plant in Wolfsburg has great charisma.” And the demands placed on suppliers are just as great. The requirement was not only for a particular yellow, but also that the principle of “Quattro design” be followed. This means that the paint must work in fifty paint shops and four systems worldwide, both water-based and with organic solvents.
The pigment content is what counts
And Wörwag’s dedication was rewarded. In addition to lime yellow, VW will, in the future, make use of black and glossy silver. The electric cars from the ID-family will have a high-gloss black roof. From 2020, the C-pillars and roof strips will be coated with the silver glossy color tone also designed by Wörwag – making use, for the first time, of the paint film that has won several environmental awards.
As a wet paint, it is also used for painting the mirror shells and the inserts on the sides. The clear varnish for the rear spoiler is also made in Stuttgart.
20 variants to choose from
Lime yellow has, as was hoped, opened many doors. A look back: Hörner had her eye on the technical feasibility as early as 2014. It was her first major project in the department. The basis was a paint system that has been tried and tested for a long time. Five to six color pigments gave the new hue its desired intensity. In the end, lime yellow tended more towards the green end of the scale. In the lab, Hörner measured out the ingredients and mixed twenty different variants. Sample plates were painted and then examined. Hörner: “Our beautiful yellow serves no purpose if customers are not able to use it.”
At first, the yellow paint seemed capricious. Spots of paint came to settle again and again on what were known as “cloud plates.” Every test used a pound of paint. To avoid spotting, the important thing was to set the hiding power correctly. “It’s a balancing act: how large must – indeed may – the pigment share be to allow the paint to provide the best possible cover without getting blotchy?” That’s the crux as identified by Hörner.
First stage victory
In the end, Wörwag went to Wolfsburg to present six variants of yellow. Bischoff can remember it exactly. There were 900 color tables on the table from six manufacturers, and the VW experts were poring over them. Nobody beat the lime yellow. “I think everyone picked up our table. The color really stood out.” A first-stage victory! Others would follow.
For the GTI meeting on Lake Wörthersee in 2015, VW apprentices put together a Golf with lime yellow as a special paint. The fans loved it. Two years later, the Group showed off the striking hue on a Golf R at the Geneva Motor Show. Right then, it became clear that this yellow would go into series production.
Since then, Bischoff and his team have been regular guests in Wolfsburg. The support has paid off. The pre-series vehicles are now coming off the production line. There are, however, still often changes to look after. During the development of the yellow tone, VW wanted dark grey as the filler color instead of old white. This exceeded the coverage of the original version of the base coat. “We spent a lot of time in the painting plant with the customer,” remembers Bischoff.
“Lime yellow is a tricky one to apply. There are a lot of parameters that need to be set just right. If, say, the paint layer is only slightly too thick, the hue will be too yellow. That is why the application needs to be adjusted precisely at every point.” But Bischoff can provide reassurance: “We managed it all – thanks to a strong team.”
The article was first published in the Woerwag customer magazine “finish” in 2019.