It Is Not All Black and White
By Eli Greenbaum for Collision Quarterly, Winter 2021
Today, thanks to advanced coating technologies, the spectrum of colours available to a car customer is wider and deeper than ever before.
More than a century ago, a revolutionary automaker named Henry Ford told his marketing and sales team, “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants, so long as it is black.” He made that seminal statement while speaking about the Model T—the car that arguably and ultimately made auto ownership affordable for millions of people. At that time, offering only one colour made sense because it made mass production easier and faster and helped make Ford’s assembly line a masterpiece of efficiency.
Back then, owning a car was a big deal and people were probably not too fussy about a car’s colour, as long as they could get one. More than a century later, while black is still a popular car colour, it certainly is not the only car colour available. Far from it.
Today, thanks to advanced coating technologies, the spectrum of colours available to a car customer is wider and deeper than ever before. Throw in a rainbow of metallics, pearlescent finishes, flaked coatings, lavish solids, special effects, tri-coats, and quad-coats, and customers have a huge cafeteria of choices. There are also the ultra-premium custom hues available if your pockets are deep enough. Sophisticated technology and creativity allow the production of colours that were unthinkable just a few decades ago. In fact, if Ford were alive today, he might amend his statement to something like “Customers can have cars painted any colour, as long as they can imagine that colour.”
“Assuming that a new colour can be produced, there is still another key step: survival in the real world.”
These days, major automotive paint companies such as BASF, Axalta, and PPG are applying their capabilities to develop colours that will appear in the market in the next few years. The following is a top-down look at where these colours come from, who chooses them, which are popular, and what is coming next.