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History of Generic Names in the Automotive Refinishing Industry.

In our everyday life, we use many words, which, in fact, are registered trademarks. As time passes, consumers use those words generically to describe certain products. Kleenex, Jeep, Post-it, Frisbee, Aspirin, Xerox, Google, Jacuzzi, are all registered trademarks, but we never think about it. Certainly, it is a great success for any company, when their trademark starts living the life of its own and becomes a common noun.

Car repair business is not an exemption. Certain trademarks are used as common nouns mainly in the local markets, while others became generic names worldwide. I thought it might be interesting to share with you some examples I heard while traveling all these years.

I can surely say that 3M is the absolute champion in creating trademarks, which become widespread names not only for one product, but also for the whole category. Let me bring to your attention four of these products.

3M PPS – 3M Paint Preparation System

No doubts, 3M employs brilliant engineers, who invent completely new and innovative products, which make millions in profit for the company and make painters’ life easier. PPS is a wonderful example, how you can create a new category of products from scratch. With 3M replaceable cups system painters save time, materials, money (on solvent used for washing) and effortlessly store the remaining paint for the future usage. PPS became a huge success, subject for the court disputes and patent infringements. Recently the patent for the original PPS expired, but I am sure that professionals in our trade will keep calling, even the competitive products, by the generic name of PPS.

3M Scotch tape

Scotch tape is another generic term, which refers to pressure-sensitive self-adhesive tapes. The use of the term Scotch in the name was a pejorative meaning “stingy” in the 1920s and 1930s. The brand name Scotch came about around 1925 while Richard Drew was testing his first masking tape to determine how much adhesive he needed to add. The bodyshop painter became frustrated with the sample masking tape and exclaimed, “Take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it!” The name was soon applied to the entire line of 3M tapes.

3M Scotch-Brite

Scotch-Brite was introduced during the 50s as a line of flexible abrasives (mainly Aluminium oxide) based on non-woven polymer fibers. Nowadays you can find products under Scotch-Brite brand in every supermarket. In the collision repair workshops Scotch-Brite firstly appeared as hand pans for surface preparation of a car body, especially on the difficult-to-reach areas.

3M Bondo

Here is another great example of a generic term, which describes a two-components polyester body filler, mainly in the US market. Bondo was invented in 1955 by Robert Merton Spink, and later on the company and the brand were acquired by 3M, who understands very well how strong is the power of a brand, like Bondo.

Rupes BigFoot

Rupes is a well-known Italian tools manufacturer from the country’s industrial north and with a history of over 65 years. In 2010, Rupes launched a line of orbital polishing machines under the trade name BigFoot. Since then the company created a new current in both car refinishing and detailing business. What is amazing that dual action and orbital polishing machines had been in the market before, but it was Rupes, who made this technology known and widely used across the globe. Nowadays one can find a big range of Rupes BigFoot tools, chemicals and even BigFoot academy. Thanks to BigFoot, Rupes entered the market of car enthusiasts and professional car care specialists. Forthwith in many countries, people tend to call any orbital or DA polisher as BigFoot.

Mirka Abranet

Abrasives producers have been always experimenting with the bases for their abrasive products. Paper, cloth, fiberglass or even polyester film, all are widely used for the production of coated abrasives. One of the biggest problems during the sanding process is the dust and clogging. Mirka invented a sanding material where the base is a mesh with hundreds of small holes, which virtually creates dust-free working environment with better surface quality and healthier working conditions. They gave to this product a trade name Abranet, which is also very easy to remember. Not so long time ago Mirka’s patent on the mesh abrasives had expired, and since then many other manufacturers started offering similar products. Nevertheless, wherever you go, both traders and bodyshop professionals still call those products Abranet.

U-Pol Raptor and Easy

U-Pol is the UK producer for the automotive refinishing products, and boasts 70 years of successful operations. U-Pol actually have two products, which can be considered as generic terms: Raptor protective coating and Easy body filler. While the latter is used as a generic description of body fillers in the United Kingdom, the first – Raptor – actually named the whole category. Raptor is a two-component durable urethane based protective coating for surface protection under the toughest climatic conditions and mechanical stress. Initially it was mainly used as truck bed liner, but now the applications vary from the marine and agricultural sector to off-road vehicles and general industry. Even though you can find very good alternatives, like Novol Cobra or Etalon Alligator, still end-users call them Raptor.

Sika Sikaflex

Sika is a multibillion Swiss conglomerate, which produces hundreds of products across different segments. In the auto body repair industry, Sika is known for its protective coatings, adhesives and sealants. I can confirm that in Greece, for instance, when a panel beater comes to a shop, he most probably asks a PU sealant by Sikaflex name, regardless of the brand he is actually buying.

The above list is non-exhaustive, of course.  It would be great to learn what trademarks have made to the podium of brands with overwhelming recognition in your market?







Collision repair industry greatest innovators.

Innovation is probably the most cliché-ridden word in the modern corporative marketing. Most slogans, corporate mission statements and annual reports include the “innovation” word or its derivatives. Innovation, by definition, is a new product, process or method, which changes the usual, established set of product features and ways it is used. True innovation, however, is disruptive; it breaks the old rules and sets new standards.

Automotive industry has been always associated with novelties and break through ideas. Starting from Ford’s moving assembly line, which was afterwards implemented by virtually any manufacturer on the planet to electric cars and modern driverless cars. Tesla is a great example how a brand with no history can create value in the industry dominated by companies with more the hundred years of experience.

So, vehicle OEM coatings and refinishing industry is not an exemption. Automotive paint has been developing since the first car was produced, despite the fact that in the beginning paint wasn’t viewed as key sales factor. Remember Ford’s saying: “A customer can have a car painted any color he wants as long as it’s black.”

Unfortunately, there is little information available online about who was the first to invent certain, now commonly used, products. For example, polyester fillers, replaced lead many years ago, but I didn’t manage to find a reliable source about it. Neither could I find information about which paint manufacturer was the very first to introduce color mixing system. However, below I bring to your attention just a few products, which changed automotive OEM and collision repair process dramatically. Not all of these products are of the same importance, but they are definitely worth mentioning.


Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (here comes 3M) has the word “innovation” as its corporate slogan, and people in this multibillion and multinational company really mean it. There are countless patents in various industries. Below I name just a few 3M innovations, which have had undeniable impact on automotive refinishing industry. These products names, like Scotch-Brite or PPS, have become common names even for the products of competitors.

  • Waterproof paper was invented in the early 1920s and is still used in automotive refinishing workshops around the globe, especially in the places where dust extraction is not an option.
  • Scotch, is the first pressure sensitive masking tape, which was invented by a young lab assistant, Richard Drew in 1925.
  • Scotch-Brite sanding and cleaning pads, developed in 1950s, are so versatile that this brand name is well-known to both to craftsmen and housewives around the world.
  • Trizact and Cubitron are unique abrasives lines, which outperform in their category most of the competitive products.
  • PPS (paint preparation system) is a broad category of products, with the disposable plastic cups in the core of the category. PPS has been a subject for patent wars, counterfeits and imitation.


In 1887, a maintenance supervisor in a department store, Joseph Binks invented a machine to paint walls. Even if his invention was primarily used for painting buildings, Binks created a solid foundation for the future spaying equipment. Binks brand is still well-known, especially in light industry applications.


Devilbiss is another great example of long history and innovation, which changed automotive industry from painting vehicles literally by brush to what is now a symbol of the industry – a spray gun. The brand was founded in Toledo, Ohio in 1888, when Dr Allen DeVilbiss invented a device for spraying medicines. Later on his son Thomas adapted the original atomizer to create a spray gun for the coatings application. The rest is the history…

Dupont (Axalta Group now)

Duco was actually the first dedicated automotive paint, developed for Ford in order to reduce drying times of the paint from days to a few hours only. Actually Duco was a nitrocellulose paint drying through solvent evaporation, which was used in the refinishing industry for almost 100 years.


It would fantastic if you, my dear readers, could share your information and views about the automotive coatings industry’s brightest minds and innovative brands.

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