Vehicle wraps cover larger share of market

Larry Edsall
Soup It Up

Present your car with a unique look by doing a vinyl wrap.

Now that you’ve unwrapped your Christmas presents, have you ever thought about wrapping your car or truck?

Not only does wrapping a vehicle give it a unique look, the vinyl material used to wrap a car or truck helps to protect its painted surfaces.

Wrapping a vehicle certainly isn’t new. Everything from city buses to NASCAR racing cars carry advertising messages that are wrapped rather than painted on them. But there’s a growing trend in individual owners wrapping everything from exotic sports cars and customized tuner vehicles to making your own sedan stand out in a crowded parking lot.

Several companies demonstrated their newest vehicle-wrapping products and techniques at the recent SEMA Show and each demonstration seemed to draw shoulder-to-shoulder interest from those attending the annual automotive aftermarket (Specialty Equipment Market Association) industry and trade gathering.

I watched as two teams from 3M competed to see which could wrap a car more quickly using the company’s Wrap Film Series 1080. When 3M launched its car-wrapping film, it offered six colors. Now it provides not only dozens of colors, but satin, matte, gloss, and two brushed metal finishes. One set of brushed metal finishes has a carbon fiber-style surface while the other has a surface that mimics brushed steel or aluminum, and does so in several colors.

And the options for wrapping a vehicle are almost as long as the variety of colors and finishes. You can wrap an entire vehicle, or just a hood. You can wrap exterior mirrors or add racing stripes to your vehicle. Or, as 3M demonstrated at SEMA, you can turn your vehicle into a one-of-a-kind “art car.”

“A lot of the trend right now is to the matte and satin look, because it is different from (a factory) paint (look),” said Doug Blackwell, business development manager for 3M.

“People are after a unique look, a personal look,” he explained. “They want anything but ordinary.”

Is a wrap like a tattoo for your car? I asked.

“It’s a little less painful,”Blackwell joked, “and it’s not permanent. It can be changed out a couple years later and you’re right back to the original finish.”

Blackwell noted that many people pick personalized covers for their smart phones or laptops, and some want to make a similar personal statement with their cars.

He said customers typically wrap a car in one color and then use a complimentary color or different texture on the hood or for racing stripes.

Blackwell said it typically costs a few hundred dollars to wrap a hood and a few thousand to wrap an entire car. 3M certifies installers and lists them on its website, where you can do a search by zip code.

“Our films only look as good as the installation,” he said.

When properly installed and maintained (such as using only brushless car washes), the film wrap can hold up for as long as seven years, according to the FAQ on the 3M website. Or you can wrap your brand new car, drive it for a few years and then remove the wrap and the car’s painted surfaces still will look brand new.

For more information, visit the website.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him