How about this: a colour shrink wrap for your car. Foilacar, says its developer, can help protect the original car's paint colour, jazz up an old car or even elevate it to style icon status.
There is an apocryphal story about a nouveau riche owner of a flashy high-end car who wanted to ensure that his brand-new car stayed that way... and ended up scotch-taping the entire exterior. That may have been a joke that emanated from a bored mind, but now a German named Swen Roters has stood the joke on its head.
Roters is the founder and managing director of Foilacar, a company that 'foil wraps' your luxury car in protective and decorative film to essentially decorate and protect your vehicle.
The day I visit his workshop, Roter's team is 'scotch-taping' a Lexus in gold-coloured foil with a matte finish (''so it doesn't appear too blingy''). The method seems fairly simple: take a foil, measure the area to be used, cut, peel and paste. Voilà! The car has a new look.
But what is this wonder material that has car-modification addicts racing to wrap? It's a type of foil wrapping technology from Germany that gives a new look to your car while protecting it from minor scratches. What's more, it is a fully removable colour foil that allows you to revert to the original colour of your car at any time. This German high-end product ensures the same optical appearance and surface structure of a regular paint finish.
"You just peel it and stick it like you would any sticker!" explains the natty-looking Roters. "Anytime the customer feels he doesn't like the colour of the sticker, he can ask for it to be peeled off. It can be done easily and will not leave any damage or residue. The car returns to its original colour.'' The foil also helps protect the car against minor scratches (thanks to the 100-micron-thick material). ''This means it will also provide protection for the original paint. Even if the car suffers a minor scratch, the original paint will not be damaged.
"You can wash the car, even wax or polish the Foilacar coating if it's a shiny finish." he says. So how much is all this goingto cost?
For an average luxury car like the Mercedes S-Class, the price would start at about Dh15,000 for the basic colours (green, orange, silver, black, blue and white). "If the car is a special model with a body kit, the cost goes up as the work increases," he says. "For some special colours, like gold matte or white matte, the price would be about Dh20,000-Dh25,000, depending on the size of the car."
Then there are some special colours such as carbon fibre for which the price starts at Dh35,000.
"Not everybody likes [this particular one], because it can be a bit [over the top]," says Roters. "But we've already done a Bentley Continental GTS with this and it looks very nice. I must add it looks good only on certain cars. Mostly customers want this colour only for dramatic highlights like the spoilers, side skirts, mirrors, and so on."
But Roters will not stand in the way of customer tastes. "We have more than 100,000 colours available, and have installed at least 250 of them on various cars. Sometimes some colours don't match the interior. In such cases, we advise the customer to choose shades that are darker or lighter than the one used for the interiors."
For that out-of-this-world touch, Roters offers a unique Swarovski Crystal Skin colour that costs around Dh300,000. "Crystal Skin coatings feature a thin layer of original Swarovski crystals, giving the foil a unique sparkle," says Roters.
The charges depend on the car's size. "Most of the luxury cars, such as the Mercedes S Class or the BMW 7 Series are almost of the same size as far as using our material is concerned. But working on some cars, especially the smaller ones which may have a complicated shape, can be time- consuming and hence more expensive to cover. Although we may use less material than we would for a larger car, the time used to cover it may be more so the charges may go up,'' he says.
We have to take extra care when working on cars like the Bugatti Veyron, which costs around Dh7 million, he adds. Roters says his company specialises in covering high-end luxury cars.
Though Foilacar is now a world player, Roters started small.
"I started my first company in 1994; a small agency advertising on sign boards in Germany," says Roters. "In 1998, I started designing stickers and logos for cars. In late 2000, I developed the idea of using the sticker which we normally used for design, to cover the entire car."
It was a case of trial and error before they perfected the technique. "Over the years, we experimented with different materials, the ones that will last, and also ones that can be removed easily, and that which approximated a paint job. That was the ultimate test the customer should not notice that it's not a paint job."
Roters came to Dubai in 2005 to test out the market, and promptly decided to open a branch here.
"I started one here in 2007 with a local partner, but we parted ways in 2008. However I got an even bigger partner who is now collaborating with our business worldwide.
"The Foilacar Premium outfit in Dubai is our first workshop outside Germany, and will be our second headquarters. From here we will conduct training for all other centres in the Middle East. Dubai may be small when compared to Germany, but the number of high-end luxury cars here& You will never find such a concentration anywhere else in the world," Roters says.
"In Germany, we'd get customers from all over Hamburg, Munich, sometimes Berlin, many times more than 800km away. Here, you get all your customers within a radius of 50km! Also the last couple of years, the world focus was on Dubai, so we used our Dubai outlet as a kind of demo showroom to show what we are capable of. Now, we have around 950 franchise requests from across 60 countries around the world."
Though headquartered in Germany, Foilcar will be operating out of Dubai for all practical purposes "because we are not only selling a product but also an idea and the know-how, which means we have to have trained people who take up a franchise. We have many enquiries from the Middle East."
What happens in the case of an accident? "Before installing the film the paint surface has to be dent and scratch-free. Minor scratches won't damage the foil. But if a major accident occurs, the damaged surface may have to be re-painted before our foil can be used on it.
"If the damage occurs on the bonnet, the entire bonnet may have to be covered with the foil. We can't do small portions. The reason is that a line will be visible when a new piece is stuck on the old coating." The benefits are many: the film has UV-protection qualities, so months or years later when you decide to remove the foil, the original paint will not have faded and your car will look as good as new. Does the foil come with warranties?
"The intense heat and humidity in this region do not allow us to offer the two-year warranty we do in Germany. There, the foil lasts around five years. Here, we offer a one-year warranty. Also, here the foil will last for two to three years. Of course, it also depends on whether you park your car out in the sun or in a garage, and how you treat the car."
Roters enjoys doing new things for his clients: "We create special colours for special cars, like the daylight orange we did for a Lamborghini Murcielago SV 2010 model; it's so bright, it makes you close your eyes in sunshine. If any customer wants a special colour, we'll produce it. And it will remain unique if he so desires."
Right now, Roters is focused on opening new outlets in the GCC, especially Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. "We also plan to participate in national and international motor shows, starting with the Dubai Motor Show this year and the Geneva Motor Show next year.
"We have requests from Mexico, Brazil, North and South America, all over Europe, South Africa, Russia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, even Australia and New Zealand. Initially, we plan to give out five franchises, and another five by the end of the year."
But for all this, Roters remains an entrepreneur at heart. "For me, Foilacar stands out due to its uncompromising German quality. Foilacar films are all developed and produced in Germany, and represent value for money."
That will remain his pitch no matter where he expands to.