Anna is traveling in style today. The Kinsky mare – one of the world’s rarest breeds – peeks curiously at the car-and-trailer combination that will shortly be taking her for a ride in the Taunus mountains, north of Frankfurt. The new Opel Insignia Country Tourer isn’t just a fine towcar – its paintwork is also exactly the same color as the trailer. All thanks to Opel Exclusive. The customization program allows buyers to match the color of their new Insignia to whatever takes their fancy: their favorite tie, or even a horse trailer. But this trailer comes with an extra challenge: this fine specimen is five years old already, and it’s been sitting outside in all weather.
“Communication has to be perfect to make sure we get the shade of the custom color exactly right.”
“That has an effect on the finish, which had to be taken into account when the color was mixed,” says Dr. Simone Pütz. As Product Manager, she set up Opel’s ingenious procedure for ordering a personalized Exclusive color. “Communication between the customer, the Opel dealer and ourselves, as the department responsible at headquarters, has to be perfect to make sure the customer gets exactly the custom color they want.”
First port of call: the Opel dealer
Opel’s Exclusive program is designed for people who want to treat themselves to that little bit extra. First port of call: the Opel dealer In the case of the horse trailer the customer was already very well prepared. She had requested the trailer’s color code from the manufacturer and came armed with both photos and a clear idea of what else she wanted, namely a Country Tourer with a 260-hp two-liter turbocharger and, naturally enough, a pre-fitted towbar.
It all starts at the factory:
Giving shape to the bodyshell
Manufacturing of the Exclusive flagship begins in the main plant in Rüsselsheim. Gigantic presses shape hundreds of individual parts. These are then welded to the bodyshell by robots in a perfectly-choreographed procedure. However, the unpainted bodyshell is then released from the paint shop, following immersion in the dipping bath to apply the primer. “This means it has to be removed from an established, completely seamless manufacturing process, at least temporarily,” explains Ralf Besenbeck, head of the Rüsselsheim paint shop. With this in mind, production planning and workplace safety experts have put a number of measures in place, including converting a lift to carry the bodyshell the nine meters down to the ground floor. Here it is loaded onto a truck, together with other components, and leaves the factory.
“Nothing is impossible. We’ve already done vehicles in the color of a particular type of leaf, a lipstick, and even to match a candy wrapper.”
This is because the Insignia Country Tourer gets its custom topcoat some 80 kilometers away, in Wiebelsheim, in western Germany. This is home to Schröder GmbH, a company specializing in custom premium paint schemes. Iris Menke-Hermani from Opel Paint & Chemical Engineering was careful to ensure the company would meet Opel’s high build quality standards. The Opel paint specialist explains, “We inspected all their procedures and tailored them to our exact requirements.”
The custom paint scheme:
Off to the specialists
By the time the bodyshell is loaded and delivered, Schröder’s staff have spent weeks creating the exact shade of paint to be applied to the Insignia Country Tourer, with the help of color codes and photos sent to them in advance. A difficult task? “Nothing is impossible. We’ve already done vehicles in the color of a particular type of leaf, a lipstick, and even to match a candy wrapper,” Chief Executive Walter Schröder points out. The paint experts use color measurement tools connected to a comprehensive database to gradually approximate the required shade. A premix formula is calculated. All subsequent changes are recorded and constantly compared. But even the most modern measuring tools have their limits. Beyond them, a trained eye, top-quality craftsmanship, and a passion for small details are required to incorporate the horse trailer’s slightly weathered paint into the mix formula.
When the experts are ready to settle on a color, the customer is sent a sample. It is 15 centimeters long, shaped like a car, and painted in the custom-mixed color. “It’s not enough to just send the customer a painted sample sheet. They need to see how the paint goes on to various parts of the car so they can get a clear idea of how it will look,” explains Frank Leibold, the Marketing Manager in charge of Opel’s customization program. Once the color has been properly matched, about nine kilograms of the special paint are mixed up. That will be just enough to cover the bodyshell itself as well the bumpers, roof aerial, mirror housings and various other components.
Details of the exact formula mix for the custom color are stored, and the car gets its own personal color ID, too. The color code can be found in the trunk, in the spare wheel compartment. This allows the color to be reproduced as required. Painting can begin as soon as the bare bodyshell arrives from Rüsselsheim and the customer has given the green light for production to start. The paint is always applied by several painters working in parallel to ensure a top-quality finish.
Final assembly and finishing:
Back to Rüsselsheim
The Opel Exclusive bodyshell spends about three weeks in Wiebelsheim before it is brought back to the Opel plant and lifted the nine meters back to the production line. “From here it makes its way into the chassis distribution center (CDC), quietly, as if nothing has happened,” Ralf Besenbeck explains. The bodyshells are then transferred from the CDC for final assembly and finishing. Among other parts, this is where the bumpers, mirror surrounds, door handles, and antenna base are fitted, along the Opel badge on the tailgate – all of which also have to be painted in the custom color. “These parts are delivered in separate containers,” says the head of the paint shop. “Our colleagues in logistics put them in the order in which they will used on the production line.” It requires meticulous planning to make sure those parts arrive with the workers on the production line at the exact moment the Exclusive model comes through. The same applies to special extras such as wheels or leather interior options for the seats, which are also part of the Exclusive program.
“The bodyshell is fed quietly back into the process, as if nothing has happened.”
First trip to the Taunus
Our horse owner receives her Opel Insignia Country Tourer Exclusive eight weeks after the initial order at her Opel dealer. On her first trip to the Taunus she is delighted with her unique car and trailer combination: “The color is absolutely perfect. The very first time I pulled up at a traffic light the driver next to me gave me a thumbs-up for the car and trailer.” And it’s not just the look she’s happy with. What’s the Country Tourer like as a towcar? “Great! It’s really quiet. I barely noticed I was towing a trailer weighing a total of about 600 kilograms. And with the 360-degree rear parking camera, I can back up with the trailer on without needing a second person to help me maneuver.” When Anna’s owner bought her Insignia Country Tourer, it certainly looks like she backed the right horse.