Take a good look at the picture above. What do you see? If your answer is that you see three black Chevrolet Equinox “cute utes,” you’d be wrong.
I took the picture at about four in the afternoon on a sunny day at my local Chevrolet dealer. According to their window stickers, each of those trucklets are a different color. The Equinox furtherest from the camera, facing the building, is the only one that is Black. The one closest to the camera, next to the curb, is Black Granite Metallic. The third Equinox is painted Tungsten Metallic. Here’s a shot from a different angle of the Tungsten Metallic and Black Granite Metallic trucks. See the difference?
Yeah, me neither.
And if that’s not enough different shades of Pretentiously Named Dark Color That Looks Almost the Same from 50 Feet to satisfy you, Chevrolet offers a fourth shade of Almost Black for the Equinox called Ashen Gray Metallic. Here is a picture of an Ashen Gray Metallic Equinox parked next to a Tungston Metallic Equinox. The AGM truck is on the left. I think.
Keep in mind that these pictures were taken on a sunny day. Time, and the fact that the dealership was still open and I didn’t feel like dealing with any salesmen desperate to close a sale before the end of the month, kept me from examining the trucks any closer. I returned the following Saturday evening after the lot had closed for some more pictures. The sky was clouding over as a thunderstorm approached, so there wasn’t any sun to bring out the metallic flakes that help to differentiate the individual colors. Here are all four of them in order from darkest to not quite as dark.
Seriously. It’s not just me, right? These colors are almost the same.
For 2013 the Chevy Equinox is available in 11 different colors. That’s actually on the high end for modern mass produced vehicles and it’s down from 12 options during the 2012 model year. The Equinox’s big brother, the Traverse, is available in 9 shades, as is the Suburban. The Cadillac XTS makes do with only 8. Somehow, the marketing mavens at GM have given buyers of the fifth cheapest car in Chevrolet’s lineup more color options than they gave the higher end flagship models.
On the other hand, if 4 of the 11 colors are so similar that 9 out of 10 eyewitnesses to a drive- by shooting involving a Chevy Equinox after dark would describe the getaway vehicle’s color as “Black,” are consumers really being offered much choice at all? On Chevy’s “Build Your Own Page,” photoshopped onto a beach background, each of these colors appear very different from one another when viewed on a computer screen. But in real life, parked next to one another, they look way too much alike. This lack of choice was augmented at my local dealership by the fact that of 19 new Equinoxes for sale, 10 of them were painted one of the four “Almost Black” colors in question. The point was further driven home by the almost complete lack of diversity in interior color ordered by the dealer. Only a single model had a gray interior. All of the others were black.
Chevrolet (and presumably, the dealer) would most likely reply that they are simply responding to what customers want. Every year DuPont publishes a survey of the most popular automotive exterior colors broken down by market. In the latest survey black and gray were the second and fourth most popular colors in the North American market, as well as in the world overall.
All well and good, I suppose. There’s no reason why black and gray shouldn’t both be part of the lineup. But why offer two of each color and why make your grays so dark? Compare the color range in the four pictures above to the picture of a 2012 Equinox painted in a discontinued color called Graystone Metallic I found for sale on the used car side of the lot.
So why would Chevrolet be so seemingly afraid of color? Their competitors aren’t. At the Ford dealership across the street I found these two Escapes. The dealer had stocked multiple examples of both.
It seems that Ford and Chevy have reversed their traditional roles when it comes to exterior colors. Most people have heard Henry Ford’s famous quote regarding the color of the Model T: “Any customer can have a car painted any colour he wants so long as it is black.” Most people don’t know that prior to 1914 the Model T was available in multiple colors and the black standard was only adopted as Ford refined his assembly line process. The conventional wisdom is that Chevrolet (and GM overall) were able to grab market share because their models were offered in a greater variety of colors. There’s some truth to that belief, but it’s not the whole story.
It’s obvious that the old days of dozens of color combinations for each model are gone. That doesn’t mean that consumers shouldn’t be given a few more choices than the manufacturers seem to feel comfortable offering today. At the very least, there’s no reason to offer four shades of practically the same color. C’mon, Chevrolet. Take a chance and show us some color. Dump two of those four colors and give us another green or a real brown. Throw in a Burnt Orange or a Turquoise instead. Your competitors are doing it.