PALMA DE MAJORCA, Spain: While the changes to the C-class model for 2005 may not be obvious to the casual observer, the biggest change of all might be the most obvious thing about the car.
That would be the paintwork on the sedan, wagon and coupe versions of the compact Mercedes-Benz model, which feature a new type of paint technology that took the German manufacturer four years to develop.
''The new clear lacquer features ground-breaking nano-technology,'' explained JoAnne Caza of Mercedes-Benz Canada, and it ''ensures that the new product is substantially more scratch-resistant than conventional paint. This new technology represents our latest significant contribution towards considerably enhancing the already exemplary long-term quality and value retention of its passenger cars.''
Nano-technology paint is also being used on the E, S, CL, SL and SLK models in metallic and non-metallic finishes, Caza said, and other models from the Stuttgart-based firm will soon be given this world-exclusive covering.
Caza said the clear lacquer contains microscopically small ceramic particles and they harden in the paintshop oven, ''forming an extensively cross-linked network. The paint is thus more effectively protected against scratches caused by mechanical car-washes, for example. The nano-particles provide a three-fold improvement in the scratch resistance of the paintwork and ensure visibly enhanced gloss over an extended period of time.''
Following extreme tests in a laboratory car-wash, Caza related, Mercedes engineers noted an improvement of about 40 per cent in paint gloss compared to conventional clear lacquers.
Mercedes-Benz also carried out extensive testing on the nano-particle clearcoat in both laboratory and everyday conditions. ''Even after several years of use,'' Caza said, ''the more than 150 test cars involved in the long-term testing program displayed significantly greater scratch resistance and enhanced paint gloss compared to vehicles with conventional paintwork.''
On top of that, Caza said, the newly developed paint system also meets the stringent Mercedes standards in terms of the protection it offers from chemicals in the environment.
Advances in the area of nano-technology have allowed tiny ceramic particles (each less than a millionth of a millimetre in size) to be integrated into the molecular structure of the binding agent, Caza said.
''These particles float around freely at first in the liquid clearcoat, before cross-linking as the drying process takes effect,'' Caza explained. ''The particles link with one another in such a way as to create an extremely dense and smoothly structured network at the paint surface, and this provides a protective layer and ensures that the new nano-particle clearcoat is considerably more scratch-resistant than conventional paintwork.''