Car colors at the Chicago auto show
At the Chicago Auto show, we walked the floor and saw everything from vehicle camouflaged as a lizard to a white car with kids handprints in different colors all over it. But you won’t find that on the dealer’s lots. Our colors are a lot more staid and have been for some time.
Each manufacturer has a different method of deciding which colors they will use on their vehicles and how they will name those colors.
Christopher Webb, Senior creative designer, color and trend, General Motors North America, says GMs customers “are more design aware, culturally aware and we try to reflect this in the colors. The exterior car colors have many more pigments in them than previous colors and many have movement or hue shifting qualities. There is also a global trend for luxury and customization, in all areas of premium design, hence many of the color names are very premium/elegant sounding names”
Webb explains the process, “The designers meet with three different paint houses, we go to fashion shows, we read magazines such as the Trend Union, a bi-annual trend forecasting book that shapes colors and lifestyles for seasons ahead. We design with the brand in mind, so that the name of the color defines the product. A couple of examples for the Hummer would be Grenade green and desert sand.”
General Motors has five different hues of blue, ranging in names from transition blue metallic, passage blue metallic, imperial blue metallic, traverse blue metallic and pace blue.
Francois Farion, Interior and color design manager, Nissan USA, says, “there are strategic colors no one can do without; white, silver and black are already deadlocked. There are also certain colors you won’t see on some Nissan vehicles, such as a black minivan. And there are certain names, such as when we named a grey Xterra color hippo; that was not a good name. We renamed the color and it is now the best selling color of the Xterra.”
Farion says that white is the icon for new sports cars, “you see white on computers, iPods, even Louis Vuitton changed to white. Black can seem interesting because of the new paint chemistry. Our new Z color has flakes in it that show different colors when the light hit’s it.”
Hyundai has stepped out a bit in naming their vehicles. John Krafcik, Vice President, Product Planning & Strategic Planning, Hyundai Motor America, likes to give a “wink or a nod to their consumers. We’re trying to be cool and smart – just like you. Hyundais Elantra consumers are in their mid-40s. They went to college listening to Purple Rain, by Prince. Song names can’t be copyrighted, so when Hyundai decided to bring the Elantra out in a purple, it was an easy decision.”
“Hyundai works on a consistent theme to their whole color palette for each car. The Azera is purchased by folks in their early 50s, so the names, such as Aubergine, reflect a more mature audience. An orange Azera or minivan would be a real risk.”
Car buyers under 35 years of age are staid when it comes to color. They don’t think they are, but studies that Mazda has done are proving the point. Teresa Spafford, Lead Designer, Color and Trim, Mazda North American Operations, based in Irvine, Calif says that Mazda does extensive tests in four different continents, just for color.
Spafford explains, “We break out the groups into two groups; One group is under 35 years old, the other, over 35 years old. Mazda has found out that people in their focus groups under 35 think sporty colors are, dark blue or dark black. Also, neutral is more sporty to younger kids than vibrant colors. The focus group over 36 years old think of sportier colors as yellow or orange. Both groups think the universal sporty color is red, or a variant of red. It’s important to note that many parents pick out the cars for their college kids, but the kids pick the color.”
It makes sense when I think back on my teenage years. I would walk out in my black outfit to go out for the night and my mother would look at me and say, “why don’t you ever wear color? Why do you always have to wear black?” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started wearing more color, but silver and black were hip then and they still are now. Since my wardrobe has an ample supply of black in every style, I am accessorizing with more color.
Dupont doesn’t break out their color popularity by age or financial status. In their 2007 popularity chart, silver, white and black were still the top three choices, but growth was seen in the vibrant “chromatic” colors, such as red and orange. These colors make up about four percent of the market and are usually used as attention-grabbing colors.” A good example is if you see a laser blue it can only be a MINI Cooper S, the top of the line MINI.
According to Dupont’s Surcina, “the trend for the future is chromatic colors and color travelers. We see gray now, but soon gray will include the infusion of blue or green, so there is a hint of color traveling through the gray, which adds interest to the color.” Franz von Holzhausen, Director of Design, Mazda North American, made the best point. Von Holzhausen was sitting in front of the lava red Ryuga concept car. He was wearing a pink shirt, black blazer, jeans, and brown shoes.
Von Holzhausen reflected, “If I buy another shirt, it’s not that expensive and I can afford to buy a pink one. But if I’m making an expensive purchase that I will keep for a long time, I want that purchase to be in fashion for a long time.”The color of your car says a lot about you, about where you are in age and financial status and security. Some people pick a color because it shows the lines of the car better, others pick a color because they want to look a certain way to clients and friends.
What does your car color say about you
Silver – Elegant, loves futuristic looks, cool
White – Fastidious
Vibrant Red – Sexy, speedy, high-energy and dynamic
Deep Blue-Red – Some of the same qualities as red, but far less obvious about it
Taupe / Light Brown – Timeless, basic and simple tastes
Black – Empowered, not easily manipulated, loves elegance, appreciates classics
Neutral Gray – Sober, corporate, practical, pragmatic
Dark Green – Traditional, trustworthy, well-balanced
Bright Yellow-Green – Trendy, whimsical, lively
Yellow Gold – Intelligent, warm, loves comfort and will pay for it
Sunshine Yellow – Sunny disposition, joyful and young at heart
Deep Brown – Down-to-earth, no-nonsense
Orange – Fun loving, talkative, fickle and trendy
Deep Purple – Creative, individualistic