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Getting the Green Light
How brands determine which colors fit each vehicle.
Vehicles come in an incredible range of colors, textures and lusters. Market styling trends, consumer demands and the whim of designers help determine the number of new colors to pop up every year. All of which begs the question: How are these colors chosen and who gives them the thumbs up?
In the studio of the Product Design Office at FCA US LLC, a large board is set up that features the complete product grid and lineup by plant. When considering new product color development, the design group reviews the current color offerings over the last two or three years to determine what colors haven’t been used. The group also discusses which colors are trending now. However, they take a cautious approach, since by the time new colors are rolling off the assembly line, other colors might be trending. So it’s important to stay ahead of the curve, color-wise.
“There are rules and guidelines due to the fact not all vehicles are produced or painted at the same location,” noted La Shirl Turner, Chief Color and Trim Designer at FCA US LLC in the Product Design Office. “Overall, we try to make sure that each brand has ‘showroom’ consistency and represents the lifestyle and identity of the brand. For instance, we didn’t think the Nacho Cheese color would work on a Jeep® Grand Cherokee.”
The group also goes out of their way to get their audience involved in selecting new colors. For example, in March 2018, they held a color clinic in Pomona, California, as part of the Spring Fest 13. The clinic focused on the Dodge Brand and featured a number of scale model Dodge Challengers, painted in a variety of new paint colors. Over 1,800 enthusiasts turned out to vote for their favorite color. The group obtained valuable input regarding which colors their customers wanted.
The process of developing new colors is a complicated one. The design group works closely with their paint suppliers like PPG and Axalta to develop the proper production paint. They do a lot of reviews of submissions and there’s a lot of collaborative work. Also, pigments change quite a bit over the years. When trying to duplicate an older color, it often involves reformulating the paint itself.
The group also keeps each of the FCA US brands in mind when developing new colors. What works for the Jeep Brand might not work for a Dodge Brand vehicle. And, while some colors overlap from brand to brand, many of the colors are unique to both a specific brand and/or vehicle.
Picking new paint isn’t always a walk in an art museum. Often, it’s quite an involved process that engages a number of players across many disciplines and over a lengthy period of time. It’s methodical and consuming. But its just the kind of negotiating, brain-storming and second-guessing required to come up with the next most popular car colors.