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M3 Paint quality comparison USA vs. China

Hi,

I found an interesting assessment of the painting of US-made cars vs. China - hope it is of interest


Summary:
- No significant differences in paint thickness across most of the measurement points - china made cars don't have thicker paint
- China-made cars have better paint quality than Fremont cars, less dust nibs, runs and less orange-peel after assessing several samples
- China cars have a paint quality comparable to BMWs and other premium brands
- Better, more even application on front bumpers with less bleed through of undercoat
- similar thickness overall to other car brands, no more, no less
- Paint on Model S is consistently thicker than same colour on M3
- No real difference in paint thickness between single coat paint (Black) and Multi-coat paint colours (Red, Blue, MSM). All about the same

Cheers,
Alex
 

Adopado

Well-Known Member
Aug 19, 2019
5,827
4,428
Scotland
Hi,

I found an interesting assessment of the painting of US-made cars vs. China - hope it is of interest


Summary:
- No significant differences in paint thickness across most of the measurement points - china made cars don't have thicker paint
- China-made cars have better paint quality than Fremont cars, less dust nibs, runs and less orange-peel after assessing several samples
- China cars have a paint quality comparable to BMWs and other premium brands
- Better, more even application on front bumpers with less bleed through of undercoat
- similar thickness overall to other car brands, no more, no less
- Paint on Model S is consistently thicker than same colour on M3
- No real difference in paint thickness between single coat paint (Black) and Multi-coat paint colours (Red, Blue, MSM). All about the same

Cheers,
Alex

Deja Vu ... it's been on here already actually ...

 

TBrownTX

Active Member
Dec 25, 2020
1,034
1,219
Dallas, TX
Hi,

I found an interesting assessment of the painting of US-made cars vs. China - hope it is of interest


Summary:
- No significant differences in paint thickness across most of the measurement points - china made cars don't have thicker paint
- China-made cars have better paint quality than Fremont cars, less dust nibs, runs and less orange-peel after assessing several samples
- China cars have a paint quality comparable to BMWs and other premium brands
- Better, more even application on front bumpers with less bleed through of undercoat
- similar thickness overall to other car brands, no more, no less
- Paint on Model S is consistently thicker than same colour on M3
- No real difference in paint thickness between single coat paint (Black) and Multi-coat paint colours (Red, Blue, MSM). All about the same

Cheers,
Alex

Much newer plant, will be interesting to see what comes out of Texas later this year.

Tim
 
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Adopado

Well-Known Member
Aug 19, 2019
5,827
4,428
Scotland
Good info, but what about paint hardness? This seems to be the main issue. I'm pretty sure the paint on our M3 is considerably softer than that on our MX.

Yes, I would think there are paint qualities beyond thickness to consider. Thick paint can still chip off in big flakes ... and sometimes hard means brittle, making things worse. The other factor is how well it is stuck to the underlying layer. Nothing is simple!
 
Yes, I would think there are paint qualities beyond thickness to consider. Thick paint can still chip off in big flakes ... and sometimes hard means brittle, making things worse. The other factor is how well it is stuck to the underlying layer. Nothing is simple!
Exactly. But it does at least eliminate one of the variables. It would be interesting to do some surface hardness tests on a few crash damaged panels and compare those against BMW, Audi etc.
 
My old W212 E63 had hard paint - it still chipped as readily as my previous cars. It was more resistant to minor swirls but they were harder to polish. It still looked great overall when i sold it at 7 years old. It still had some orange peel and colour inconsistencies between the bumpers and metal panels. It was a pearlite white colour, which proved very difficult to touch up without it looking awful.

The interesting thing is the better quality of the colour coat and clearcoat compared to fremont cars - you can protect a good paint job bit its hard to fix a bad one without respraying.

My own Model 3 had such bad pitting in the clearcoat that it had to be resprayed all over under warranty. They did a good job and i'm happy - it looks better than new, for sure.
 
Last edited:
My old W212 E63 had hard paint - it still chipped as readily as my previous cars.
What I'm finding is that our M3 paint is proving more prone to stone chipping than our MX paint (both same pearl white). The MX is actually very resilient to stone chips - hardly any in over 40k miles. The M3 with only 2.5k miles already has a few more chips on the front. Something is obviously different. This video did mention Model S (and therefore I would assume Model X too) paint is slightly thicker, but there is probably more to it than just that. I'm sure I read somewhere that the Musk recently admitted that they didn't cure the paint long enough on some batches of M3 to get them off the line quicker. They seem inconsistent to me. Some seem extremely prone to chipping along the door sills and others not so much. Ours seems okay in that respect at the moment. But the front bumper seems very easy to chip and possibly the bonnet (although that only has 1 very small chip so far). I'm also seeing a few minor chips on the rear door shut lines, which is not so good for this mileage.
 
Got my MiC M3 back from the detailers today. Looks the business, however disappointed to see there’s already a chip on the front wing (just under 1000 miles in, about half of that motorway). The detailer said the paint is super thin and soft, so he had to be careful when polishing out all the Tesla supplied swirls.
 

Durzel

Active Member
Jul 17, 2019
4,419
3,308
Bath, UK
PPF my friend. I anticipated iffy paint before I got my car and had been warned about it by my detailer. Ended up not driving it for nearly a month after I’d got it (which was agonising) before I could drive it to the detailer. Luckily for me it had been delivered to my house on covered transport, so had 7 miles on the clock sat on the drive.

I was so ridiculously OCD that I drove the car over 3 hours before I needed to be there just so I wouldn’t have to drive behind anyone and get stone chips that way.

I’m not mental, honest.
 
Good info, but what about paint hardness? This seems to be the main issue. I'm pretty sure the paint on our M3 is considerably softer than that on our MX.
Paint hardness is being misunderstood within the Tesla and other car brands social media groups and has no relevance to how stone chipping occurs, in my professional experience. Main factors that normally contribute to stone chipping is vehicle design/shape and driving styles. Currently I am seeing more and more chipped cars across all car brands caused by the frankly appalling condition of UK roads (remember pot holes = lots of stones!), nothing to do who makes the paint and remember Tesla does not make paint.

Paint "hardness" in a term commonly used by detailers to determine the type of clearcoat for polishing compound purposes, see guide here 10.5 How Hard Is My Paint? - UF Car Care & Detailing Blog

I believe that the rumours started because Tesla upgraded the Fremont plant from a solvent paint to a BASF waterbased system, to bring it in line with the rest on the motor industry which changed back in the 90's, when Low VOC paints were required in the EU countries and California. Almost every automaker switched 15+ years ago to these improved low-VOC paints.

BASF low VOC paints as used by Rolls Royce, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche to name a few is not a bad choice by Tesla.
Who we are | rmpaint

So please people stop saying Tesla paint is rubbish, the "paint" is not the problem, its the same BASF paint as found on many other makes of cars.
I would concede that Tesla quality control on the other hand is a different matter and this has meant that some car have left the factory that simply shouldn't and owners have been inconvenienced accordingly. Tesla have some design and process problems that need addressing when it comes to the quality of paint finish and durability.
 

TBrownTX

Active Member
Dec 25, 2020
1,034
1,219
Dallas, TX
Don't know if I got lucky, or the last batch of Freemont cars is better, or what. My paint is darn near perfect. I have one speck of dust in the clear on the entire car. No drips, runs, uneven orange peel, fisheyes, or anything else for that matter. Paint looks great in the door jams, under the trunk, etc.

Now I have seen some pretty scary examples of people with factory pain issues on this forum, and some are recent. All in all I'd imagine those are the outliers though, most people never look that close in the first place. I still think there's a lot of urban legend about paint quality, but that's just me.

Tim
 
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Don't know if I got lucky, or the last batch of Freemont cars is better, or what. My paint is darn near perfect. I have one speck of dust in the clear on the entire car. No drips, runs, uneven orange peel, fisheyes, or anything else for that matter. Paint looks great in the door jams, under the trunk, etc.

Now I have seen some pretty scary examples of people with factory pain issues on this forum, and some are recent. All in all I'd imagine those are the outliers though, most people never look that close in the first place. I still think there's a lot of urban legend about paint quality, but that's just me.

Tim
It was the last batch from Fremont, Dec 20 deliveries, that seem to have had the worst paint, mainly regarding sills of paint peeling off and peppered with stone chips.
I have a Sept 19 delivery, there were some paint nibs and drips, but a year and a half on there is next to no stone chips.
 
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Paint hardness is being misunderstood within the Tesla and other car brands social media groups and has no relevance to how stone chipping occurs, in my professional experience. Main factors that normally contribute to stone chipping is vehicle design/shape and driving styles. Currently I am seeing more and more chipped cars across all car brands caused by the frankly appalling condition of UK roads (remember pot holes = lots of stones!), nothing to do who makes the paint and remember Tesla does not make paint.

Paint "hardness" in a term commonly used by detailers to determine the type of clearcoat for polishing compound purposes, see guide here 10.5 How Hard Is My Paint? - UF Car Care & Detailing Blog

I believe that the rumours started because Tesla upgraded the Fremont plant from a solvent paint to a BASF waterbased system, to bring it in line with the rest on the motor industry which changed back in the 90's, when Low VOC paints were required in the EU countries and California. Almost every automaker switched 15+ years ago to these improved low-VOC paints.

BASF low VOC paints as used by Rolls Royce, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche to name a few is not a bad choice by Tesla.
Who we are | rmpaint

So please people stop saying Tesla paint is rubbish, the "paint" is not the problem, its the same BASF paint as found on many other makes of cars.
I would concede that Tesla quality control on the other hand is a different matter and this has meant that some car have left the factory that simply shouldn't and owners have been inconvenienced accordingly. Tesla have some design and process problems that need addressing when it comes to the quality of paint finish and durability.
While I understand what you are saying here, I don't think that's anywhere near the full story with Tesla M3 paint. It's not the actual paint itself people complain about, it's the application of it. In a recent interview Musk himself admitted that the paint drying process had been shortcut on some production batches. Then there are these stories with independent inspections:-

Tesla Model 3 Paint Problems Pop Up In Areas Not Impacted By Road Salt

These are not just rumours. Tesla paint issues (especially M3) appear to be very real across the globe. Our M3 is just coming up to 3k miles and already showing signs of damage which has nothing to do with driving style or road conditions. As I said our MX paintwork is completely fine. I used to wonder what all the fuss was about with Tesla paint until buying an M3. Now I'm starting to see for myself. At best they seem very inconsistent with their paint quality.
 
It was the last batch from Fremont, Dec 20 deliveries, that seem to have had the worst paint, mainly regarding sills of paint peeling off and peppered with stone chips.
I have a Sept 19 delivery, there were some paint nibs and drips, but a year and a half on there is next to no stone chips.
These paint issues actually appear to date right back to launch. We have a Dec 20 Fremont car (2021 refresh spec) that doesn't have paint peeling off the sills, although it is looking more prone to stone chipping than I would have hoped. As usual with Tesla you are playing the "quality" lottery every time you buy one. They are great cars overall, but their QC is hopeless.
 
I believe that the rumours started because Tesla upgraded the Fremont plant from a solvent paint to a BASF waterbased system, to bring it in line with the rest on the motor industry which changed back in the 90's, when Low VOC paints were required in the EU countries and California. Almost every automaker switched 15+ years ago to these improved low-VOC paints.
According to Wiki and other sources that conversion happened back in 2011, so pretty much from the start of Tesla Model S production.
 

Uncle Paul

Well-Known Member
Nov 1, 2013
6,299
7,636
Canyon Lake,CA
Tesla originally repurposed the paint system left over from Toyota/GM at Fremont. They updated as much as possible.
Later they totally replaced that system with newer technology and California compliant paints.
Newer stuff was put into the China factory and the latest and greatest is going into the state of the art Germany facility.
After that, Texas will get new paint systems, but of course the CyberTruck will need no paint booths at all.

Imagine that Tesla will continue to work on their painting facilities to improve emissions, costs, through put speeds and enhanced quality.
 
While I understand what you are saying here, I don't think that's anywhere near the full story with Tesla M3 paint. It's not the actual paint itself people complain about, it's the application of it. In a recent interview Musk himself admitted that the paint drying process had been shortcut on some production batches. Then there are these stories with independent inspections:-
see my last paragraph
I would concede that Tesla quality control on the other hand is a different matter and this has meant that some car have left the factory that simply shouldn't and owners have been inconvenienced accordingly. Tesla have some design and process problems that need addressing when it comes to the quality of paint finish and durability.
I included this because of the issues with a few cars that have had with poor paint application (robot error) and the sill adhesion issue (possibly drying times?)

My main point was that UK roads are currently covered with stones so I would expect that the reason people are see more stone chipping is this, not that its a Tesla. As an example here is an image of a non Tesla that I have received today,
110255 paint chip.jpg

if you would like to see more, I have hundreds of recent examples on file mainly from BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Porsche owners.

My own M3 Tesla has got a similar amount of chipping to the front in 10 months of ownership as my VW Golf in the same time period and by the way the Golf was delivered with 5x paint defects when new. My Golf also had two chipped/cracked windscreens in its 1st year of ownership.

I do wish though that Tesla would fit PPF as standard (instead of a £50 accessory) to the rear flared sections of sill and rear wheel arch as see on many other makes of car as this is too vulnerable to be unprotected even with mud guards fitted.
 

Adopado

Well-Known Member
Aug 19, 2019
5,827
4,428
Scotland
I do wish though that Tesla would fit PPF as standard (instead of a £50 accessory) to the rear flared sections of sill and rear wheel arch as see on many other makes of car as this is too vulnerable to be unprotected even with mud guards fitted.

Agreed ... you would think this is so obvious (and cheap) that it falls into the "no brainer" category.
 

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