Tokyo, Dec. 5: The dread that grips every car owner when they pull into a parking space that is slightly too small could soon be prevented by an invention from Japan ' a transparent vehicle body paint that repairs scratches on its own.
The encounter with a thorny rose bush, the swipe from a fingernail and even the ravages of an automatic carwash brush will no longer hold any fear for drivers.
Within a few hours of damage, the paint will start to re-form itself over the scratch, and by morning the mark should have disappeared.
The Scratch Guard Coat comes courtesy of car giant Nissan, and will soon be making its debut on the notoriously narrow and scratch-prone roads of Japan. The Japanese company will be offering the special paint as an option on its X-Trail SUV before deciding whether to use the product on its range of cars.
The paint will be given to buyers ready to pay ' 251 on top of the price of the X-Trail, and its makers claim it will continue to work for three years.
Because of Nissanís corporate partnership with Renault of France, the productís success in Japan could mean that the paint will soon start appearing on cars in Europe.
Even if the car is attacked with a 10-yen coin ' the Japanese vandalís favourite weapon ' the paint should be able to cope. Within a week, a Nissan spokesperson said, it will repair the scratch.
ďOf course, you could speed the process up by pouring some warm water over the affected area ' that would repair it in minutes,Ē he added.
Car makers have been battling for years to offer their customers some sort of reliable scratch-proofing: successes have been few and far between, and the conventional wisdom has been to develop harder grades of paint to give the surface a basic resistance. The Nissan approach, which it has undertaken with Nippon Paint, its supplier, will push research in the opposite direction.
The result is a transparent, synthetic resin, the high density of which means that it slowly flows back to fill any cut in its surface. The proposed thickness of the coating is about the same as a normal coat of paint, which means that it will repair scratches made to that depth. The paint has been designed to coat dark cars, but Nissan said there was no reason why the technology could not be used on lighter hues.
Japan's obsession with cleanliness has sent other corporations in a similar direction. Asahi Glass has produced a self-cleaning window, and Panasonic has produced an airconditioner in which a miniature robot patrols, collecting dust.
Scratched paintwork becomes less of a problem with Citroen's self-parking system. The driver operates the brake and accelerator, but the car eases itself into the space using sensors
Volvo's new system monitors the driver's behaviour using sensors in the front and back of the car. If concentration levels lapse, it sounds an alarm
Mercedes' crawl system senses when the car in front inches forward in a traffic jam and follows suit
COPYRIGHT - THE TIMES, LONDON
To buy tomorrow's Times pictures today, use the following Internet address http://22.214.171.124/syndigital/1.0_home.html