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Ideal protection, easy processing

Ideal protection, easy processing


BMW is the first car manufacturer to use ZM Ecoprotect from thyssenkrupp’s Steel division in series production – in the MINI’s outer paneling.

(Text: Michael Schulz)

When Niki Lauda competed in the first motor race of his career in 1968 – and placed second – he was not yet sitting behind the wheel of a Ferrari. Back then, his car was the polar opposite of that souped-up luxury model from Maranello, Italy: It was a Mini. And for that little car, Lauda’s second-place finish was by no means unusual. The 1960s was a successful decade for the Mini – it brought three different champions to a first-place finish in the world-famous Monte Carlo Rally. In addition to impressing on racetracks, it also graced the silver screen – alongside the legendary Michael Caine in The Italian Job, for instance.

That decade established this little car’s large cult following. The fact that it is no longer truly British has not diminished its popularity in the slight­est. On the contrary: Ever since BMW started making the MINI (now written in all caps), it has become a firm fixture on the streets of continental Europe. ­thyssenkrupp always rides along with the MINI – as of recently, the company’s high-quality flat steel with ZM Ecoprotect coating is included in the car’s outer paneling. The MINI Hatch has ZM Ecoprotect on its roof, and the MINI Clubman has it on its fenders.

"This new coating provides our vehicles’ inner and outer paneling parts with many more advantages than conventional zinc coating does."

Frank Bosch, Key Account Manager BMW

Why did the Bavarian car manufacturer choose zinc-magnesium coating instead of conventional zinc coating? For Frank Bosch, the answer is obvious: “This new coating provides our vehicles’ inner and outer paneling parts with many more advantages than conventional zinc coating does: better processing, better corrosion protection, and a thinner zinc layer that lets us conserve resources.”

Bosch is the Key Account Manager for the thyssenkrupp Steel specialists in Duisburg. He oversees commercial and technical activities for the BMW Group account. “ZM EcoProtect is thinner than conventional coating, yet provides the same corrosion protection for the surface of the roof and fenders as conventional coating does. This new coating also does an even better job of protecting the highly vulnerable cut edges as well as areas vulnerable to stone chipping.” Moreover, BMW was also impressed with ZM EcoProtect’s improved processing characteristics. “These save costs at the pressing plant,” says Bosch. “Minimized abrasion reduces the effort required for cleaning and extends the service life of the press.”

thyssenkrupp’s Steel division is the first steel manufacturer in the world to put zinc-magnesium coating suitable for outer paneling into mass production – and eight months earlier than scheduled, at that. Maintaining a fast pace is also very important in the complex customer approval process. “We conduct a whole range of trials between the initial discussions with our customers and implementation – as was the case with this new roof and fender coating,” says Bosch.

As a result, in order for implementation to succeed (as it did with the MINI), the customer needs to be involved in the introduction of the new product from the very beginning. The process goes quickly. That is hardly surprising – a fast pace suits the automotive industry well, particularly in the case of the speedy little MINI. Many automotive manufacturers have caught on to the trend of zinc-magnesium surfaces – and many others are figuring out how and when they can switch to these surfaces, too.

From Mini to MINI - a cult car

The British Motor Company presented the first Mini with an 848 cc engine in April 1959. Its special feature: a ‘mustache’ grille. Many versions and decades later, this small car still enjoys cult status. MINI has belonged to the BMW brand portfolio since 2001. Despite its new, optimized interior concept and growing dimensions, it still has not lost its sweet miniature charm.

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