There are many descriptions of the new car paints that have become popular in recent years, but none of them can fully capture the essence of “know at a glance”.
Shades are soft earthy tones – greys, tans, tans, etc. – that lack the reflective metallic flakes that are often mixed with car paint. In car-obsessed Los Angeles, the species has gone from rare to almost ubiquitous in a decade. Companies such as Porsche, Jeep, Nissan and Hyundai now offer paint.
The automaker says the earthy hues convey a sense of adventure – even stealth. For some design experts, color represents harmony with nature. To other observers, they had a paramilitary feel that reflected bigotry in everything tactical. Automotive critics saw them as an expression of drivers’ conflicting desires to both stand out and fit in.
“I find this color soothing; I think the color is very soothing,” says Tara Subkoff, an artist and actress known for her work, including The Last Days of Disco, which painted a Porsche Panamera a soft gray called chalk. “When the volume of traffic is this high, and it has really grown astronomically over the past few months – and almost unbearably – less red and orange can be helpful.”
Want that understated look? It will cost you. Sometimes affectionate. Paint colors offered mainly for sports cars and SUVs usually cost extra. In some cases, these are simply options that can add several hundred dollars to the price of a car. Other times, they sell for over $10,000 and are designed for specialty vehicles such as heavy-duty SUVs or heavy-duty two-seaters.
“People are willing to upgrade trim levels and pay extra for these colors because some cars look their best in [them],” said Ivan Drury of Edmunds, an automotive information service, noting that colors are sometimes offered briefly. sense of urgency for potential buyers. “It was like, ‘Hey, if you like it, you better get it now because you’ll never see it in this model again.’
Audi kicked off the trend in 2013 when it debuted in Nardo Gray on its RS 7, a powerful four-door coupe with a twin-turbo V-8 engine producing over 550 horsepower. It’s “the first solid gray on the market,” said Mark Danke, director of public relations for Audi of America, referring to the dull paint. A few years later, the company offered this color for other high-speed RS models.
“Audi was the leader at the time,” Danke said. “Solid colors are becoming more and more popular now.”
While these muted hues have been offered by automakers for a decade, their popularity seems to have largely escaped the attention of the media. A few significant posts about the change in style in recent years include an article on the Capital One website—yes, a bank—and an article in Blackbird Spyplane, a trending newsletter written by Jonah Weiner and Erin Wylie. An article in Weiner’s 2022 newsletter in all caps aggressively asks the question: what’s wrong with all those A**WHIPS that look like PUTTY?
Vehicles painted in these non-metallic colors “reflect less light than we’ve been used to seeing in past decades, so they have greater visual density than their film-off counterparts,” writes Weiner. “The results were weak, but recognizably unthinkable.”
You’ve seen billboards offering $6.95, $6.99, and even $7.05 a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. But who buys it and why?
Driving through Los Angeles, it’s clear that these earthy tones are gaining popularity. On a recent afternoon, Subkoff’s Porsche was parked on Larchmont Boulevard, just steps away from a Jeep Wrangler painted in a light tan called Gobi (the limited-edition paint costs an additional $495, the car is no longer for sale). But the numbers that define the success of these hues are hard to come by, partly because the available paint color data contains very little detail. In addition, several automakers declined to disclose the numbers.
One way to measure success is to see how fast cars sold in a particular color are. In the case of the four-door Hyundai Santa Cruz truck due in 2021, two muted earthy tones – stone blue and sage gray – were the best-selling of the six colors Hyundai offers for the truck, Derek Joyce said. representative of Hyundai Motor North America.
The available data confirms an obvious fact about car colors: American tastes are constant. Cars painted in shades of white, grey, black and silver accounted for 75 percent of new car sales in the US last year, Edmunds said.
So how do you take risks with your car’s color when you’re actually not that adventurous? You need to pay extra to lose the flash.
Ask automakers, designers, and color experts about the origins of the non-metallic paint trend, and you’ll be inundated with concept theories.
Drury, director of research at Edmunds, believes the earth tone phenomenon may have its roots in the car tuning subculture. He said that in the late 1990s and early 2000s, car enthusiasts covered a car with a primer — available in white, gray, or black — as they added body kits and other elements to the exterior of their cars, and then waited. until all changes have been made, painting is complete. Some people like this style.
These primed rides have a matte finish and seem to have sparked a craze for so-called “killed” cars painted black. This look can also be achieved by putting a protective film on the car all over the body – another trend that has developed over the past decade or so.
The Beverly Hills Auto Club and co-owner Alex Manos have fans, but the lawsuit alleges that the dealership was selling vehicles with unknown damage, defective parts or other issues.
These quirks, according to Drewry, can “make it clear to automakers that premium paint doesn’t always match the shiniest [or] the shiniest paint.”
Audi’s Danke said Nardo Gray was born out of a desire for a special color for the company’s high-performance RS lineup.
“The color should emphasize the sporty character of the car, emphasizing its confident behavior on the road, but at the same time remain clean,” he said.
Hyundai’s sapphire and sage gray shades were designed by Erin Kim, Creative Manager at Hyundai Design North America. She says she is inspired by nature, which is especially true in a world struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic. More than ever, people are focused on “enjoying nature,” she said.
In fact, consumers may not only want their vehicles to look good in a wooded canyon, but also want to show that they care about a wooded canyon. Leatrice Eisman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, attributes the appearance of muted, earthy tones to consumers’ growing awareness of the environment.
“We’re seeing social/political movements responding to this environmental issue and drawing attention to reducing artificial means and moving towards ways that are perceived as authentic and natural,” she said. Colors “help indicate that purpose.”
Nature is also an important inspirational concept for Nissan as their vehicles are now available in aluminum shades Boulder Grey, Baja Storm and Tactical Green. But it has a certain character.
“Not earthy. Earthy high-tech,” explains Moira Hill, chief color and trim designer at Nissan Design America, tying the car’s color to the tech equipment an explorer might cram into his 4×4 on a weekend mountain tour. For example, if you’re packing a $500 carbon fiber camping chair, why wouldn’t you want your car to be the same?
It’s not just about projecting a sense of adventure. For example, the gray Boulder paint creates a sense of privacy when applied to a Nissan Z sports car, Hill said. “It’s understated, but not flashy,” she says.
These colors appear on vehicles under $30,000 such as the Nissan Kicks and Hyundai Santa Cruz, symbolizing the popularity of understated earth tones. A tint that was once only available on more expensive cars — the RS 7 had a base price of around $105,000 when it launched in Nardo Gray in 2013 — is now available on more affordable vehicles. The druid was not surprised.
“It’s like most things: they infiltrate the industry,” he said. “Whether it’s performance, safety, or infotainment, as long as there’s receptivity, it will come through.”
Car buyers may not care about the philosophical underpinnings of these colors. The majority of those interviewed for this report said they bought these no-frills cars simply because they liked their looks.
Car collector Spike Feresten, host of Spike’s Car Radio podcast, owns two heavy-duty Porsche models – the 911 GT2 RS and 911 GT3 – painted in chalk, and the company has unveiled a new color. Feresten calls his Chalk “low-key but chic enough.”
“I think people are noticing this because they are taking a small step forward in terms of the risk of choosing a car color,” he said. “They realized they were in the Big Four — black, grey, white or silver — and wanted to try and spice it up a bit. So they took a small step towards Mel.”
So Feresten is looking forward to his next Porsche in non-metallic paint: the 718 Cayman GT4 RS in Oslo Blue. This is the historic color that Porsche used on their famous 356 models in the early 1960s. According to Feresten, the shade is available through the Paint to Sample program. Pre-approved colors start at around $11,000 and fully custom shades sell for around $23,000 and up.
As for Subkoff, she loves the color of her Porsche (“It’s so chic”) but dislikes the car itself (“That’s not me”). She said she plans to get rid of the Panamera and hopes to replace it with the Jeep Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid.
Daniel Miller is a corporate business reporter for the Los Angeles Times, working on investigative, feature and project reports. A Los Angeles native, he graduated from UCLA and joined the staff in 2013.
Post time: Mar-16-2023