Fear Of A Black Planet

David Hester
by David Hester
fear of a black planet

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.


Granite Black Metallic

Tungsten Metallic

Ashen Gray Metallic

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.

Graystone Metallic

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.

Frosted Glass and Deep Impact Blue

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.

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  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on May 05, 2013

    Green, for the love of all that is holy, emerald, heather, or British Racing please!!!!!!!! I've gotten so desperate for color I've thought about buying a white car and spending THOUSANDS to have it properly repainted. I do like the brown shades that have made a comeback at Ford, Chrysler, and Subaru recently. My first car was two shades of brown with a copper interior (1982 Celebrity) and although my second car was white (1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme) the interior was blue.

    • See 1 previous
    • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on May 05, 2013

      @Lorenzo I just meant door jams and all those places people skimp on.

  • Mvoss Mvoss on May 06, 2013

    This is funny because when I was a salesperson, we would always joke about our dealership's lack of color on the lot. We would imagine a scenario where all other competing dealerships would point to us if you wanted a "bla-bla" car (black on black). I really didn't get it, but truth be told, a lot of the cool colors simply weren't bought.

    • JimWalewander JimWalewander on May 07, 2013

      People might not buy bold colors, but dealers can do a much better job with how they display their inventory. I have a small used car lot, and always try to mix up the colors on my front line. It's no good at all to have a black car next to a dark blue car next to a gray car -- people driving by can't see any of them because they cancel each other out (especially given that at our location, the sun is behind our cars.) You have to alternate - black/white/red/black/silver/dark blue/beige. At least people going by at 50mph can see some contrast. (I wonder if Steven Lang feels the same?)

  • Tassos Before you rush to buy this heap of rusty metal, maybe you should wait a day or two.I hear Tim will have an Model T next time.
  • Redapple2 I d just buy one already sorted. Too many high level skills (wiring, paint, body panel fitment et. al.) that i dont have. And I dont fancy working 100 s of hours for $3 /hour.
  • 28-Cars-Later I'm actually surprised at this and not sure what to make of it. In recent memory Senator Biden has completely ignored an ecological disaster in Ohio, and then ignored a tragic fire in Hawaii until his handlers were goaded in sending him and his visit turned into it's own disaster, but we skipped nap time for this sh!t show? Seriously? We really are through the looking glass now, "votes" no longer matter (Hillary almost won being the worst presidential candidate since 1984 before he claimed the crown) and outside of Corvette nostalgia Joe doesn't care let alone know what day it happens to be. Could they really be afraid of Trump, who AFAIK has planned no appearance or run his mouth on this issue? Just doesn't make sense, granted this is Clown World so maybe its my fault for trying to find sense in a senseless act.
  • Tassos If you only changed your series to the CORRECT "Possibly Collectible, NOT Daily Driver, NOT Used car of the day", it would sound much more accurate AND TRUTHFUL.Now who would collect THIS heap of trash for whatever misguided reason, nostalgia for a much worse automotive era or whatever, is another question.
  • ToolGuy Price dropped $500 overnight. (Wait 10 more days and you might get it for free?)