EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Business

March 24, 2013

Drivers seek signature look with vehicle wraps

We’ve all seen them: The minivans advertising Aunt Flo’s day care, the hatchbacks trumpeting maid services, notaries and plumbers.

But there’s a growing niche in the vehicle wrap business: Drivers who are customizing their cars with personalized graphics.

“Only 20 percent of the public has started to understand this is not paint. These are stickers,” said James Naccarato, general manager of Iconography Studios in Los Alamitos, Calif. The vehicle wrap company has, in recent months, outfitted a Nissan Cube in wood-print vinyl to emulate a vintage woody wagon and a Mazda Miata with a Japanese anime design.

A decade ago, vinyl graphics were single-color cutouts mounted on a car door or window.

“Now the guy who owns a Maserati and a couple small businesses can dress up his personal car. He doesn’t have to own 100 fleet vehicles to make it affordable,” said Iconography President Sarah Naccarato.

Personal full-vehicle wraps cost between $3,000 and $4,000 and require two to five days to complete.

Partial wraps, such as a custom graphic on a hood or side panel, typically cost less than $1,000.

“It’s a relatively inexpensive, non-invasive process for an automobile mod. (Vinyl) allows people to really play around with what they have without devaluing their cars,” Naccarato said.

While vinyl wraps have been around for almost a decade, what’s new is an explosion of colors and textures. Vinyl comes preprinted in hundreds of colors and finishes that can be customized into personalized designs printed on enormous digital printers that are laminated in finishes ranging from matte to metallic and applied to the car’s exterior. They stick with microscopic glue bubbles built into the vinyl’s backing that, when removed, in most cases leave the car’s paint intact and without damage.

Personal vehicle wraps are “a very quickly expanding area,” said Dan Marx, vice president of markets and technologies for the 225 companies that make up the Professional Decal Application Alliance in Fairfax, Va. “I think we’re on the edge of seeing a lot more of this in the consumer area,” he said, especially as prices come down due to increased competition.

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