PPG Automotive Coatings has its roots in two separate and diverse coatings companies that were heavily involved in the early automotive industry and eventually joined forces under the PPG banner.


In August of 1902, two skilled carriage finishers from Pennsylvania named Peter and Fred Ditzler set up shop in Detroit to manufacture what were know as "Japan colors" (ground pigment in linseed oil) and color varnishes. These products were soon acknowledged as the outstanding carriage finish materials of their day. The Ditzler Brothers supplied their product not only to carriage manufacturers but also to the fledgling auto manufacturers in the area. Ford Motor Company and Cadillac were the brothers' first automotive customers. Within a few years their growing list of customers included nearly all of the early car manufacturers.

In 1913, the business was sold to an aggressive group of businessmen who had vast experience in the general paint business. They began to immediately expand the business with state of the art manufacturing and service while maintaining the quality standards of the Ditzler Brothers. It was during this transition, that the new owners decided to specialize in automotive coatings only. Through the next few years, innovations such as fast drying Japan colors and new super durable undercoats were developed and sold to the auto manufacturers. By 1923, nitrocellulose lacquers were introduced and commercialized. Ditz-Lac became the standard of the industry. This innovation spelled the end of color varnishes in the market.

In May of 1928 PPG purchased the Ditzler Color Company. Together PPG's financial strength and Ditzler's acknowledged expertise in the coatings business; PPG's newest independent subsidiary grew rapidly in the next few years. Among the innovations introduced during this time period was the introduction and commercialization of synthetic enamels. These enamels created a surface so smooth and glossy that waxing or polishing was not needed for beauty or protection unlike lacquers that were in use at the time. In the early 1940's, Ditzler was renamed the Ditzler Color Division and became the centerpiece of the organization's automotive finishes business.

Forbes Finishes

In 1907, The Forbes Varnish Company was founded. Like the Ditzler Brothers, Charles Forbes was in the varnish business. Their specialty was providing varnish materials for the automotive industry. Together with 3 other partners, Forbes quickly grew his coatings business by introducing a series of innovative body varnishes that dried quickly and were easy to handle in a production line scenario.

The development of nitrocellulose lacquers by the Ditzler Color Company in 1923 almost put Forbes out of business. However, the company was quick to react and soon had a competitive offset. Following the Great Depression, Forbes began to diversify his business into the industrial market. By the early 1940's, the industrial coatings business was actually bigger than the automotive business. World War Two brought Forbes additional opportunities. Innovative finishes were developed for army helmet liners as well as infrared-reflecting camouflage paints.

In 1947, PPG purchased Forbes Varnish Company and incorporated the business into its coatings mix. Specialization into lacquers and industrial finishes became a priority and the business quickly attained division status within PPG.

In 1964, Ditzler's Detroit operations were transferred to the Cleveland Forbes location and this became what today is PPG's main Automotive Manufacturing location.

In the product innovation area, PPG became even stronger. The companies' development of Electrodeposition Primers, Waterborne Coatings and Powder Clearcoat stand out among the hundreds of innovations PPG has been responsible for over the past 40 years. Development breakthroughs in elastomeric finishes, adhesives and sealants and specialty coatings have the company on the "leading edge".

Throughout the 1960's, PPG concentrated on becoming a world player in the Automotive Finishes arena. Key acquisitions in France and Italy formed the basis of PPG's robust European business. In 1962 PPG bought a controlling interest in Peintures CORONA, a French coatings and resins manufacturer whose major business was in the architectural market. Shortly thereafter, PPG acquired Italver...a Milan based coatings and resins manufacturer. The next wave of expansion began with the establishment of PPG Iberica in 1982 and the acquisitions of PPG Deutschland (1984), PPG Italia (1984), PPG UK (1985) and Donj Ju in Korea (1987). In the 90's PPG acquired the OEM coatings business of Akzo Coatings in Europe, Argentina and Brazil. Following closely behind were the purchases of Bolling & Kemper in Germany, ICI Malaysia, Orica in Australia and PPG Tianjin in China. Today...PPG is recognized as one of the world leaders in automotive finishes .