My Ride, My Color My Way

By Deb Acord, CTW Features

Automakers are helping expressive owners stand out with jazzy new colors

Drivers around the world who like to fit in with the masses choose silver cars. But those who like to be different might check out something in Majestic, a black-purple shade that looks like black metallic in the dark and purple pearlescent in sunlight.

Majestic is one of the newest car color shades for model year 2013-2014 vehicles from PPG Industries, a manufacturer of transportation coatings based in Pittsburgh.

PPG developed its color palette in seven labs in the United States, Europe, Korea, India, China, Taiwan and Australia, says Jane Harrington-Durst, manager of color styling.
Silver is the most popular vehicle color in the world. In North America, shades of silver, gray and

charcoal rose in popularity last year, followed by black and white (tied for second), red, blue, and naturals such as browns, tans, golds, oranges and yellows, with green in last place. Just 16 years ago green was the most popular color in North America, according to PPG.  That’s the color that Harrington-Durst chose for her own car – a Ford Fusion that is “a dark green called Atlantis Green,” which Ford developed with the help of PPG.

“People form an emotional connection with color,” says Susan Swek, Ford Motor Company’s chief designer.
While basic white, black, silver and gray remain dominant, there’s a market for more eye-catching hues, she says. “Color is a simple way to allow people to add a personal touch to their lives,” says Swek. “It’s something that speaks to them and expresses a little bit of their personality.”

She describes the colors of the next generation of Ford vehicles as deep, bold and mysterious.

“Consumers are going to see more complex colors that are raw and powerful with a lot of depth and special effects,” says Swek. The next-generation palette includes more complex metallics, tinted clear coats, tri-coats and neutrals.  

PPG bases its color palette choices on colors its specialists see in various consumer industries, such as fashion, interior design and consumer electronics. Some of the newest colors might make silver-loving consumers change their minds, Harrington-Durst says. “I think the shades that would surprise consumers are the number of colors developed in gold, orange and brown tones, which we call authentic colors.” These hues carry names like Canyon, Cognac, Trail, Suede, Terrain and 18 Karat.

Car manufacturers characterize their vehicles with color. “The right color on a car really helps define that vehicle in the marketplace,” Harrington-Durst says. “Pastel two-tone combinations that were popular in the ’50s, like blue, turquoise and pink combined with white, complemented the size and style of the vehicle of that era.”

Today, cars such as BMW’s MINI still take advantage of unique colors and color combinations to accent their profiles, such as Liquid Yellow with a white roof, or Chili Red with a black roof.

What about Majestic? “I would consider this a niche color. It wouldn’t be the right fit for every vehicle,” Harrington-Durst says.

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