The automotive industry has been challenged in the 1980's to evaluate and commercialize an increasing number of new plastic materials for exterior body panels. An important and often critical consideration, during the selection of polymers for body panels is the issue of “paintability”. Usually the paintability of a new plastic candidate is addressed from the perspective of assuring desired surface aesthetics, coating durability, coating-plastic substrate adhesion, processing and heat resistance in the paint ovens. Many times, the mechanical properties of the composite system resulting from the marriage of several coats of paint to the plastic substrate are not given priority consideration in the initial evaluation stages.This paper proposes that a “Technology Advancement Partnership” (1) be forged early in the development of a “plastic substrate-coating composite” system for a specific car platform. A partnership based on joint development programs involving the automotive company paint and material specialists, the coating suppliers and the plastic suppliers. In so doing, all the issues relevant to a total material system development approach can be addressed at project inception and an effective development strategy mutually created and implemented. The focus of this paper is an examination of how instrumented impact testing can be utilized as an effective tool for the joint development of “plastic substrate-coating composite” systems.