By on April 7, 2016

 

car colors. shutterstock user Africa Studio

TTAC commentator Windy writes:

Sajeev,

I just started the once-every-few-years process of shopping for a new car. When I ordered my Mini 12 years ago, I was able to pick from a vast selection of colors and options. Since then, automakers have dwindled down and constrained their available colors. I’ve played the configurator game with many marques, and the choices in color were frankly dismal for most cars.

Frequently, you’re given the choice of whites, blacks, silvers, greys, and one bright color tossed in to keep the oddballs at bay. Red seems to be the most common bright color, followed by bright yellow and blue. Greens and browns are rare. Two-tone paint jobs and pastels are nearly extinct.

Then you go inside: if you want anything other than a standard black interior, it will be some sort of tan or brown that has to be ordered as part of a package that is itself limited to a single exterior color. Red leather in anything outside of the supercar category is extremely rare, as are natural looking browns. Most browns (in fact most leather in general) looks more like naugahyde than real leather, a product of being processed into uniformity. When was the last time you saw green leather in a new car?

Why have our color choices in new cars become so constrained?

Sajeev answers:

Overlooking manufacturers with bespoke programs that gladly Hoover your wallet clean, I reckon the lack of color choices for cars stems from a perceived lack of interest in expanded choices. That leads to operational hurdles for those choices not worth clearing.

But remember this: car designers are challenged and tasked with making “fresh” products every year, often reflecting trends in other B2C industries.

This was driven home during my time at the College for Creative Studies: ideas meet acceptance if someone with even a modicum of credibility does something similar. So, an automaker is likely to adopt a certain idea if a progressive product company (Nike, Apple, OXO), an important tastemaker, or — perhaps most importantly — a mega fashion haus tries to take that idea mainstream.

Let’s hone this down to the fashion connection. The car design business is diversifying, but it’s still male-centric, so let’s focus on men’s fashion in particular.

If forest green corduroy, dark red velvet anything, and brown satin shirts made a splash in men’s fashion and they — most importantly — percolate from Lord and Taylor to Burlington Coat Factory, everyone from Lexus to Hyundai will complement the modern gent’s garments.

Too young to know? Peep men’s fashion (not just the pimps) in blaxploitation flicks, in movies such as American Hustle, and TV shows like Mad Men, then contrast those fashion duds to this infographic.

Implementation won’t be a challenge when modern gents decide they want something different. Thanks to today’s operations management techniques integrating unique bits into the supply chain, adding a full spectrum of color-coordinated components is a computer reprogram away. That’s definitely an oversimplification — but if Toyota makes Tacomas and Tundras in the same factory, and General Motors can build the Camaro and Impala on the same assembly line … see where I’m going with this?

If the fashion statement analogy works, one-upmanship gets the car coloring business where it should be: precisely where it used to be!

Green interiors with green carpets. Brown paint with bronze wheel accents. Right now, even when you pick an obscure color, it’s absent from the headlining, wheels, and the entire dashboard. Most shameful is our current notion of brown seats with black carpet and black dash and doors with chocolate accenting! A brown interior should be like swimming inside a Lindt Lindor.

Perhaps it will happen. I shall remain optimistic. Car color choices are (can be?) a pull system just like any other feature customers shop for in our society.

[Image: Shutterstock user Africa Studio]

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156 Comments on “Vellum Venom Vignette: Sartorial Color Selections?...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “So, an automaker is likely to adopt a certain idea if a progressive product company (Nike, Apple, OXO), an important tastemaker, or — perhaps most importantly — a mega fashion haus tries to take that idea mainstream”

    So, we should expect “Rose Gold” cars sometime soon?

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      I (am a dude) ended up with the rose gold iphone b/c my mom didn’t want it. I think it looks great. Not sure I would want it for an exterior color on a car but for accents it would look good.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “So, we should expect “Rose Gold” cars sometime soon?”

      Too muted for my taste but it would at least be an improvement.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        My first car, an 81 Mustang GLX, was an off gold color. Sort of metallic tan called “Champagne” and came with eye (and butt) burning red interior! Basically it was a car stuck in the 70s.

        • 0 avatar
          King of Eldorado

          Champagne lasted at least into the 90s. I remember flying into NY after a very long day, where the rental car guy handed me a set of keys and said “It’s the Champagne Mystique.” For a few seconds I had no idea what he was talking about and said, “What’s the Champagne Mystique?” Then I remembered that Mercury sold a model called the Mystique, equivalent to a Ford Contour, and presumably that goldish color was called Champagne.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          The ’70s weren’t all that colorful – I’ve seen way too many earth tone Herculon sofas – but the patterns were ‘out there’. For wild color combinations (and interiors to match) you really have to go back to the 1950s with their two and three tone combinations. AMC in particular was noted for interior seats with vinyl trim that matched the exterior, with nylon plaid mesh inserts. Those inserts burned an interesting pattern on your back and thighs on the drive home from the beach.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Ford had a “rose gold” of sorts in the 80’s. I know the Merkur xR4Ti came in it. I remember a dealership had a “rose” colored one on their floor. In hindsight, I remember it being very close to the iPhone rose gold.

  • avatar
    Joss

    More of a focus on infotainment than matching apparel palette.

  • avatar
    redav

    Well, brown and khaki are still standards of men’s fashion, but they don’t exist in cars, so the theory may not hold up.

    I get the exterior color decisions–white/dark white/silver/gray/dark gray/light black/black is clearly the most popular color. It might be due to people thinking of residual values instead of buying what they like, or maybe they actually like blending in. (Why do accountants wear gray suits? – To add color to their lives.)

    I kind of understand the interior trend to black & near-black with maybe a way-too-close-to-white as an option. I don’t think there are many tan interiors anymore, either. I agree with not offering ‘colors,’ including red, on the interior. However, I can’t figure out why natural browns & tans aren’t common. Frankly, this is absolutely gorgeous:
    http://i1127.photobucket.com/albums/l634/phytheaux/CosyVehicleImage.jpg

    • 0 avatar

      Khaki a definite standard, I disagree about brown. I rarely see brown slacks when I go shopping…in places halfway between Lord and Taylor and Burlington.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        +1

        Mens slacks in the world are dark blue, black, charcoal gray, gray, and you’re good old forever khaki. Also shop somewhere between BCF and L&T, err Nordstroms.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I just took a look at some dept store pages for men’s clothes. I don’t really care what’s considered ‘fashion,’ but there were plenty of options for browns ranging from light like khaki to dark. I saw more browns than blue. Brown certainly is no longer popular for suits.

        But it isn’t just about pants. Brown leather is an absolute staple for jackets, man-purses, shoes, accessories, etc.

        And people wear khaki because dirt & gunk shows much less than a dark or light color. Brown, black, & bone also go with everything.

        I still can’t accept that interior colors are designed to go with men’s fashion. I could believe that colors are picked in the same way as fashion accessories–the need to pick something that goes with everything and is not affected by short-term trends.

      • 0 avatar
        Windy

        Sajeev, Thanks for pulling one of my notes(and bigger thanks for editing it down to a useful question)
        Yes I know fashion goes in cycles and i have hopes that when I need to shop for a new car that more choice will be on offer.
        I had forgotten that my Grandfathers cars (a very big 1939 Packard 12 that he kept for family trips in the 50s And a large Cadillac 1952 60 special His last car) In my memory they both has fine wool upholstery and carpet and headlining… the Cadillac in mouse grey and the Packard in a light taupe brown, photos of his cars in the 1920s show Leather for the front seat only where the driver was exposed to the weather and once again wool cloth behind the centre windshield (shade unknown as the photos are B&W)

        The other option is to buy a liightly used older car and do a custom interior and also a custom (tri-tone?) Paint job ignorer to get what I want…. while it would be less expensive than the Bespoke offerings you mentioned I doubt it could be done for less than $6,000 for a somewhat sporty coupe and have a decent result. and even that price I expect would have me doing a lot of the prep work of stripping the car of bright work and interior parts and prep sanding it for the painting.

      • 0 avatar
        Jagboi

        American men seem petrified to wear colors other than brown, black and grey in their clothes. Europeans not so much, look at all the colors available!
        http://www.newandlingwood.com/gb/shop/tailoring/trousers/cotton

        Feeling Scottish?
        http://www.newandlingwood.com/gb/glasgow-bright-trousers-glasgow-bright

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      Khaki and tan are the same in my eyes, and the only other color option other than black is tan now which still feels pretty common to me. But you certainly don’t see gray anymore.

      But, khaki is not a fashion color. People wear khaki because it goes with pretty much everything and they don’t have to think about it. When you want to make a splash, you don’t wear khaki.
      Just like in the 70s you didn’t see gray pinstripe interiors.

      Hyundai made a couple attempts recently at brown seats with… limited results I’d say.
      https://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/658493295/overview/

      edit: I hope you didn’t link to the same car with your photo, I can’t see it at work.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I linked to a brown BMW X1 interior with the bronze accents.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          BMW is one of the few bright spots in interiors, even if their exterior choices are mostly blah. I was lucky to be able to special order Tasman Green on Chestnut Brown for my ’11, and Estoril Blue on Oyster for my latest. Their Coral Red interior is stunning, but I though it might be a bit much with Estoril Blue, and I wanted the cool matching blue stripe on the dash.

          • 0 avatar

            BMW will paint your car anything in the palette, even if not part of your car’s official set of choices. Like the blue shade on the 5 series and want it on your 3 ? No problem. Costs more, but….hey, any fancy paint on BMW is an upcharge anyway.

            I got a black cloth interior, which wasn’t in the US catalog, but I saw it in Germany, and BMW USA accepted the interior code and built it.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Not possible on a 2-series. Leipzig does not have the paint shop capability of doing Individual colors. And my understanding is that even though they technically COULD do it for a Munich built 3-series, they no longer will, for any amount of money, other than maybe on M3/M4s. On a 6 or a 7, probably no problem if you write a big enough check… And they will no longer do anything other than what is officially offered here for interiors. Were it possible, I would have the cloth/Alcantara interior that the Europeans get as their free choice.

    • 0 avatar

      Subaru will sell you a khaki Crosstrek.

      You can still even get it with a stick shift as long as you don’t want leather.

    • 0 avatar
      Frylock350

      @redav,

      That’s not completely true. My truck’s interior is basically brown & khaki. GM calls it Cocoa/Dune but its brown and tan. Its one of the chief reasons I own it.

      Black is popular because 99% of vehicles look good in black.

  • avatar
    Demon Something

    If we could just bring this back, that would be awesome.

    http://barnfinds.com/orange-all-over-1974-volvo-144-california-edition/

    • 0 avatar
      bobpink

      I had a 1973 142 just like this, but with ATS wheels and blacked out trim. Used to get kidded about the interior by friends, but I liked it because it was different. Now I know how this combination came to be.

      Traded it in for a used 1979 Alfa Romeo Sprint Veloce where the Volvo languished on the lot for years afterwards unsold. Think it was probably still there when the dealer closed the location.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      This orange car owner approves. Mine is the classic LeMans Sunset which is more of a rust color, but the the Z also comes in Solar Orange which is like a cross between creamsicle and safety vest orange. Other great Z colors: 25th Anniversary Ultra Yellow, Brickyard Red / Interlagos Fire (both versions of burgundy) and a bold Daytona Blue.

      I’ve owned a Yellow Prelude, Green Eclipse and Blue Passat… I love colors other then white, silver and black. Ironically I’ve also owned all those colors too mostly because I buy used cars and choices are limited.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I own an orange car. I vote “no.”

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Err, even in 2004, Mini was an oddball for the spectrum of options on their vehicles (and still are – see the weird blue/purple leather they’ve been showing on the Clubman).

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Mini has always been wild about their color choices. My wife’s car is a Volvo C30 which was built to compete with the Mini. As a result it came in many awesome colors, including 3 interior choices one of which was a very Apple-store-like light maple wood. The 2.0 model (which my wife has) comes two tone with a ground effects kit in a contrasting color (her car is pearl white over java brown). Even the seats were two tone!

      Just look: Gecko Green, Matt Gold, Passion Red:
      http://www.cars.com/volvo/c30/2008/colors/

      If you really got crazy you could get an optional silk screened nautical map design on the interior aluminum trim bits:
      http://www.norcorp.com/products/case-studies-nameplates-decorative-trim/bid/24490/Volvo-C30-Interior-Trim

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Heh, those interior colors: Your choice of 5 shades of black, or gray.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        So, my wife comments on how she really likes the C30 most times one drives by (which is a little shocking, she mostly doesn’t care about any car that doesn’t have chrome bumpers), and she spent a couple summers on a tall ship. I believe I just got carte blanche to bring one home if I ever found one with that nautical map trim.

        • 0 avatar
          JMII

          The C30 might be one of the best kept secrets out there. Imagine a Volvo S40 minus two doors but with the convenience of big oval hatch opening. Its basically an upscale hot hatch with that Swedish sensibility and lovely interior. I think its a great city runner since its small but smooth and quick. They never sold in big numbers so it stands out no matter where you park it. To me its like a modernized Civic hatch but with an Ikea interior, I love the shooting brake shape with the wide sexy hips and round bottom. In comparison the Mini has that wacky interior and too stiff go-kart handling which my wife could only take for about 10 minutes.

          The downsides to the C30 are the T5’s mileage isn’t great and anything that breaks is difficult to find a fix for. For example the stupid headlight washer cover in the bumper has flown off 3 times now. Getting a new one is a 3 week process because they don’t come painted. Last repair was a bad engine mount and currently the clutch seal is leaking. A rear suspension fitting wore out causing a knocking sound over bumps, but I fixed that in the driveway with a single socket wrench, the car didn’t even need to be jacked up.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I shopped C30s for a little bit, and even on the most loaded model I didn’t find the interior very nice/luxurious. Especially considering what they cost new.

  • avatar
    balreadysaid

    Ram offers the best color options period.com!
    They do great on the limited packages for interior materials. I wish I could trust the brand.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    It seems that the exterior color choices are not only limited in number, and painfully predictable, but these few choices lack nuance. Older Mercedes and even a few of the more recent ones had colors more subtle than the norm. You’d have trouble deciding whether the color was a soft gray or pale bronze or whatever. Those old Mercedes interiors often featured beautifully colored leather of high quality, the kind you’d never mistake for vinyl. Saab in more recent times also had some quite appealing exterior colors, for all the good it did them. On my Audis, I could never tell where the leather ended and the vinyl started.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      If you go build and price a Mercedes S-Class, your available paint choices are five blacks, two greys, two silvers, two whites, and two each greens and blues which are so dark they might as well be black.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Leather interiors in old Mercedes are few and far between. Its been every color imaginable of MBTex for decades. They did make some very nice colors of that stuff though. And after the Apocalypse, the cockroaches will build luxury condos out of the stuff.

  • avatar
    Lynchenstein

    In Canada, you can only buy a base Miata in greys or black. What the hell happened to red? Stupid (greedy) Mazda Canada.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Color choice is good. I am tired of the same five body colors and a choice of black, charcoal or beige for the interior. I blame the auto dealers because they’re the ones who only order unimaginative colors when the buyer wants choice.

  • avatar
    smallblock

    Bring back the red velour interiors!

  • avatar
    Ben

    The root of the lack of selection comes from manufacturers trying to keep their margins as high as possible by keeping the options to a minimum, most notably on cheaper cars with low margins.
    Extra paint colours, that don’t sell well, cost more money. having a single (blah) charcoal interior is way cheaper. If yellow was a top-three paint colour for cars, trust me, every manufacturer would offer yellow evening their base models of their cheapest vehicle.
    BTW, I don’t like this, I’m a weird-colour-car guy, but this is why your choices are charcoal+red,silver, white, black.
    That being said, the first big exception that comes to mind is the Ford Fiesta, that was offered in magenta and acid green! I’t most likely, though, that Ford took a bath on the extra cost to have the odd Fiesta out there in a noticeable colour to attract attention to the car, which was debuting in NA? They still offer some pretty neat paint colours on their 2016 models….

  • avatar
    tsoden

    I think where you live in the world plays a big part in the available colours (Yes Colours… I am canadian :) ) a manufacturer will introduce with its product line.

    Some brands seem to take a few risks here and there… like Ford and FCA products… but then you get other brands that have a reduced colour pallet or even worse, only offer certain colour with certain trim models.

    In Canada, Honda is probably the worst offender. If you want a CRZ here, you can have in ANY colour, so long as it is white. Yes white. ONE FRIKKEN COLOUR! And yet, in the USA, a CRZ can be had in approimately 10-12 colours. CR-V’s here have a 2-3 colour choices in base trim only, 4-5 colour choices in mid trim and the full pallet at high end trim. Honestly… this is just ridiculous.

    Toyota plays the same game with a few models, but at least they offer a blue and red amoung the sea of white, black and grey.

    I do notice though, that certain models that are seem to be youth focused… like Fiesta, Fit, Accent, Rio, 500, etc, all seem to offer colours not normally seen in the typical pallet….Yellows greens, various reds, various blues, etc.

  • avatar
    ATLOffroad

    My old 97 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the Orvis package was pretty unique. It has a light tan and Hunter green combo that made the cabin really stand out. The leather was fragile with lots of scuffs and tears even though I babied that car.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Did the Orvis have the tufted leather, or the more tight version? Those GCs were late to the party with tufted leather, everybody else had moved on long ago.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I’m loving that Porsche 928 interior though!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I love a nice houndstooth or plaid interior. Especially the plaid from the old Tercel 4WD.

      http://speedhunters-wp-production.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Toyota-Automobile-Museum-995311-copy.jpg

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    I had read somewhere that car colours (and the length of women’s skirts) co-relate to the economic climate at the time.

  • avatar

    I think the biggest problem is the dealers, who are the actual direct customers of the auto companies. They don’t want to bother stocking “out of the norm” color combinations that might sit on their lot a day extra than the usual sad sea of white/silver/gray/black. I think FCA has the best interior color choices, followed by GM. That said, Ford has some really nice exterior color options. But to illustrate my point, a large Ford dealer near me has stopped stocking virtually ANYTHING but white/silver/gray/black vehicles. It depresses me every time I drive by. Perhaps the WORST offender in all of this is Honda, who mostly limits you to ONE interior/exterior color combo. Want the white exterior? Then you also better want the ivory interior, ’cause you can’t get the black interior, even though it’s offered with other exterior colors. Never understood this.

    • 0 avatar
      mike1dog

      This is probably the reason. Also, leases probably contribute somewhat to it.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      THIS.

      Sajeev, I’d think after hanging around the same site as the Baruth brothers for so long, you would have absorbed one of their most trenchant observations: the OEMs build what the dealers, not the consumers, want.

      The dealers want two things: *fast turnover* and *low risk*.

      So they are very reluctant to order anything other than the very most popular and mainstream combinations. And that’s what the manufacturers make.

      This process definitely goes too far in the direction of homogeneity for end consumer tastes. And you can see that in the used car market. As an example, my wife and I are looking around the country for a used late-model RX450h with certain rare options. This is creating two problems. First, barely any cars are configured with the options we want — 80% or more are in a “volume” spec which includes navigation, cooled seats, HIDs, and nothing else from the options list. Second, very few of the cars we find are in any color other than dark gray or black with a black interior. My wife likes the red and blue exteriors best, but when one of those with the right options comes up for sale it sells instantly and at a very high price. Meanwhile, we’ve been tracking several dark gray cars that are in fine condition but just sit on the used car lots.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Any color as long as it’s black… apparently sits on the lot.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        BINGO! dal, you hit the nail dead center. The only way to get a custom color any more is to either pay for a paint job or get it skinned at extra cost.

        It’s time to take the dealership out of the purchasing environment except for fleet sales. People should be able to order a-la carte as Ford, specifically, has proven it is very possible simply by the number of (admittedly dark) colors and trim packages available for their trucks. If they can do it with the trucks, they can do it with any vehicle just as easily.

      • 0 avatar
        bluegoose

        Dead On. It is the dealers who do the ordering. They want the sea of non-offensive silver, white, and black offerings because they are easy to move. Most of the time, people “get what they can get” on the lot. They don’t want to spend six months waiting. I also think that “economies of scale” come into play. It is easier to save money and buy silver, black, and white paint in bulk. Its depressing. Remember when Volvo had an 850R in Canary Yellow?

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      +1

      Also, consider the paradox of choice. If a consumer has more than a handful of options, they are less happy. Limiting color options to that number is good business for the manufacturer. Black, white, & gray have to be on the list. That leaves them with 2 or 3 alternatives. It seems a shame to waste them on off-white and not-black-but-dark-enough-to-look-black.

      I suspect the interior options are just for standardization. If you only make one color, it’s going to be either black or charcoal. If there are two, it’s going to be black and something light, either a light gray or tan. Outside of luxury, I have a really tough time thinking of cars with more than two interior options.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “Limiting color options to that number is good business for the manufacturer. Black, white, & gray have to be on the list.”

        Why? I’ll give you black and white, they’re good basic colors but grey disappears in almost any inclement weather as well as at dusk and dawn when the driver refuses to legally turn on the lights. I would bet that 90% of the time when there’s a multi-car collision under the conditions I mention, a grey car is involved and the other driver said, “I didn’t see it.”

        “That leaves them with 2 or 3 alternatives.”
        — Two or three alternatives? While I’ll give you red there is an almost infinite number of possible shades while blue, green, brown, yellow, orange, purple and who knows how many other alternatives are valid–not just two or three.

        And that goes for the interior as well as the exterior.

    • 0 avatar

      MJZ, to paraphrase what I wrote to another commentator:

      I thought about adding the comment about dealers, but they have always been the customers. Hopefully nobody thinks customers bought cars back in the 1970s.

      And if you know the margins on each unit sold back then, compared to today, you know they are okay with having a variety of colors. And if someone drunkenly ordered a green Fleetwood with a red interior, that’s the dud you advertise as a loss leader to get people in the door.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    I agree with Windy. The number of available exterior and interior colors has dwindled over the last ten years. We’re not down to the Henry Ford level (nothing but black) but we’re getting close. I’m sure the reason is to minimize cost.

  • avatar

    I think another major issue is that very few customers actually ORDER their cars anymore. Therefore, most people will settle for just picking something from the limited array of “easy picks” the dealer has chosen to stock. It becomes difficult for a new color trend to take hold when it’s not available at the dealer and you don’t want to wait four weeks for your order to get processed. I fear we are stuck with white/silver/gray/black for the near future, unfortunately.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      I’m one who orders when I can. My last two cars purchased new were both special ordered with equipment and colors that at the time weren’t standard. In both cases, some of my choices became included in “popular features” packages, though the orange color of the ’02 Saturn Vue disappeared after only two years.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      It seems that few dealers entertain ordering these days anyway.

      Plus, even if you get to order, you’re heavily constrained by package/option combinations on most vehicles (Can’t get a 6.2L on a Silverado LS, can’t get a red/black color combination on an Acura TLX, can’t get a 3.06 rear end on a base Charger RT).

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Dealers, except BMW and Porsche dealers, increasingly hate special orders and will make you pay through the nose to make one. Don’t plan on taking advantage of any incentives or special financing offers, and don’t expect the same discount from MSRP that you’ll get on a lot car. They want to sell something that’s already on the lot the same day and will punish you for wanting anything else.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        eh? I’ve special ordered two of the 5 new cars I’ve purchased in my life, and I still got the plan pricing and applicable incentives; and the salesman had no problem with it. There *are* incentives which stipulate that you have to buy from dealer inventory (usually month- or year-end promotions,) but not all of them do.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I’ve never actually succeeded in special ordering a car, although I’ve tried three times in my life. In every case the terms were so bad that it was a better option to get something sort of close to what I wanted from dealer stock (albeit in two cases from a different dealer).

          • 0 avatar
            319583076

            I asked the Sales Mgr at a local dealer if I’d have to pay MSRP on a special-order car. Surprisingly, he told me they would deal on it and I would probably pay something closer to invoice price.

            I guess it depends on the dealer. If you’re not a flake, it’s a guaranteed sale with the numbers worked out up front.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            what kind of cars? I can see a dealer being more recalcitrant about special ordering a model of which they’re sitting on a ton of inventory or can do a stock swap with another dealer. I’ve heard that dealers for Japanese makes can be especially prickish about that.

            but even then, my mother special ordered a Fusion and the dealer didn’t bat an eye. Maybe you just have crappy dealers around you.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            One Honda, one Acura, one domestic (GM).

            In all three cases a stick shift was involved, which probably makes things harder.

            Would not be surprised to find out crappy dealers were involved. The coasts don’t seem to do as well as the interior for dealer quality, and these happened in three different coastal cities.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            in my experience dealers owned by groups or conglomerates are rougher to deal with than independent ones owned locally.

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            You can definitely negotiate on factory orders. Just contact a bunch of dealers, tell them what you want and that you know it isn’t in the country. Tell them that the one that orders it for the cheapest price gets the business. I literally did this last week with 5 MINI dealers. Painless and got it for not much over invoice.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Sajeev forgot who the real customer is: the dealer.

    Dealers are risk adverse when it comes to color choices. They still haven’t forgotten that time in the 70’s when they got stuck with a gold Delta 88 with puke green interior, that sat on the lot for 10 months until sold $1K below cost.

    Dealers want silver cars with black interiors and popular options packages that they can lease easily.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought about adding that, but dealers have always been the customers. Hopefully nobody thinks customers bought cars back in the 1970s.

      And if you know the margins on each unit sold back then, compared to today, you know they are okay with having one dud advertised as a loss leader to get people in the door.

      This is a pull system, and the end user will dictate what is on the dealer’s lot.

      And dealers buy the same clothes from the same stores as their customers, they’ll be influenced the same way.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Good points, as usual, Sajeev,

        My concern is that although it’s a pull system, the voice of the customer gets muted through the lens of the dealership. You might want purple; I might like chartreuse — but if we are both willing to take silver, that’s what the dealer stocks.

        Part of the issue is the way Americans buy cars, which is that we expect the vehicle we want to be in stock and available to take home immediately (or the dealer to be able to swap for it from a nearby dealer). As long as inventory is expensive to maintain, this will involve compromised selections.

        European customers are much more willing to order what they really want and are willing to wait 2-3 months for it. It sounds like a much better system to me, but deferring pleasure is not a typical American pastime.

        • 0 avatar

          I think your concern is valid, but do remember that designs are often “vetted” by customer clinics.

          Until Public Transporation (or Uber) is as well covered as Europe, we as a society are never gonna delay our gratification for a new vehicle.

        • 0 avatar
          Jagboi

          I did a factory tour of Bentley in Crewe, and they basically said that same thing about Americans. They walk into a dealer and they want to write a cheque (check?) and drive away NOW! They said that even at that price point, a Bentley is often an impulse purchase for USA customers.

          Everybody else seems to enjoy the personalization process of choosing the colours, wood, style of stitching on the seats etc, to make their car unique to them. Thus USA destined cars are made in bulk in colours the dealers think will sell, and tend to be the boring blacks and greys as a result

          Bentley had samples of at least 100 “standard” colours, but of course would do anything you wanted. The guide pointed out a nice soft green and said that one customer had a kitchen mixer in that colour and really liked it, so wanted her car to match. No problem, they did it. Another was a royal blue that matched a customers helicopter…

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I hate when my automobile colors don’t match my aircraft or yachts. Sooooo faux pas.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I sold my G-Wagen the other day because the interior wood did not match the walnut panel in my Victorian over in Newport. I simply couldn’t take it any longer.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            I had the leather interior of my new Rolls dyed to match the jar of Grey Poupon I always keep on hand.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Gold metallic ATS and Mustang FTW!

    images.gtcarlot.com/pictures/79505201.jpg

    paintref.com/mustang/2010/2010_00008_01.jpg

    IIRC, Audi did not really charge Baruth that much for his green S5. I wish more brands offered custom color ordering.

  • avatar
    relton

    Years ago I wrote a paper at Ford pointing out that red interiors cost them much more than other colors, due to the extra UV protection required. As a result, Ford quit making red interiors.

    Eventually some exterior colors were also eliminated, on the basis of cost and durability. After all, we expect car finishes to last 15 years without degradation, even in Arizona.

    I paid extra at a local shop to 2 tone my BMW. 9 years later, it still draws comments.

    Bob

  • avatar
    JimInRadfordVA

    I’ve had a Pinto with the Houndstooth upholstery and a crushed velour early 70’s Eldorado.

    Vehicles today are too homogeneous. It’s extremely difficult to order a vehicle personalized to your taste (or lack of it). Perhaps this explains the rapid increase in the number of vehicles that appear to have been dragged down the chrome accessories aisle of the local Auto Zone.

    There will always be a core of automotive enthusiasts who buck the current trends of conformity. Money and taste are the only constraints.

  • avatar
    06V66speed

    Am I the only one who would love a late 70’s/early 80’s Brougham in a period correct color combo?

    Gimme dat big ol’ brown luscious Deville, ya dig? ‘Cept I likes mine with them white walls and wheel discs (not moons, factory wheel discs). You can keep your “true spokes” and your dubs (yuck!).

    Those 70’s green over greens, though. Not sure who could ever find such a combination attractive, even if it was en vogue in those days. That’s just awful. Green vinyl?? Jeeee-Sus.

    Hell, I don’t even mind the very, very 90’s burgundy/dark red-maroon color combination on my ’99 Suburban. Except the way that the maroon interior plastics change color… some of it is turning purple (hvac vents, door handle surrounds, etc), in typical 90’s GM fashion. That’s no bueno. I see a rattle can job in my near future. Lol

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Using 2004 MINI as your benchmark for what should/could be offered has skewed your perspective. MINI still offers tons of options but you pay, dearly, for them.

    You can still get quite a lot of color or interior options provided you are willing to pay for them. By and large, non-premium buyers are not willing to pay for them, so production is streamlined to satisfy 80% of the target market and drop the cost. For the premium segment, there are all sorts of interior color configurations.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    You know, that checkered Porsche 928 interior gets a lot of criticism, but I prefer it much more to the Scottish kilt pattern on VW GTi’s. Ugh! THAT, to me, is the epitome of ugly. I like the GTI, but would not buy one with that interior.

    • 0 avatar
      06V66speed

      The plaid interiors of the GTI have grown on me considerably. Not sure what made it grow on me, but it did.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        It grew on me, too. However, I don’t like base-spec cars, not even GTIs. I wish you could get the Scotch pattern on a nicer trim level. As it is, if I wanted it, I’d either have to replicate it after-market or find an enthusiast that wanted to swap seat cushions.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    If you ever play with Chevy’s Corvette configurator, there’s a “color combination override” option. If you want red leather, it’s incompatible with half the paint colors, but you can choose to pay $600 extra to make that problem go away.

    It’s unfortunate that even when you can find color options on the inside, choices are usually restricted to higher trim leather interiors, and even then the only colors that change are the seats. The dash and doors will usually remain black. I think Audi gives you the option of a black headliner to replace the usual grey, on some models.

    As for me, I miss the garish interiors of my youth. I want the dash, doors, carpet, headliner, and seats to all be the same color. Preferably in blue, red, or green. Anything to avoid all black!

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I like the current trend toward black dashboard (glare) and carpets (light carpets are impossible to keep clean unless the car’s a garage queen). But I wish for more upholstery colors.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    You are correct. I remember my dad’s blue-on-blue 1992 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight. Hell if anyone short of Land Rover or Maserati ever offers a blue interior again, and blue cloth at that.

    That said, FCA still gives you the option of red leather on the Charger, Challenger and Viper. And I’ve even seen Fusions with red leather, although they are exceedingly rare.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      You can get blue interior on the Chrysler 300 S.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Really? Fascinating. I remember their Mopar editions of the Charger and 300, which had blue stripes on the upholstery, but that’s not a full blue-leather interior.

        Leave it to FCA.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You can get Navy Blue on Porsche Caymans. If I had gone that route it would have been Silver on Navy. Much as I generally dislike Silver, that is an amazing combo on that particular car.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I like white with navy, but maybe I’m too Bill Blass-like.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Aim higher, such as Cartier.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Gold metallic with filigree door trim, and black/gold brocade cloth interior with herringbone walnut dash trim?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Ahem, Cartier comes in dove grey.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I did my own custom order, duh.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Anything but dove grey on a Cartier is akin to this:

            http://www.neimanmarcus.com/Kiton-Cashmere-Blend-Plaid-Sport-Coat-Red-Apparel/
            prod185590221_cat48920744__/p.prod?icid=&searchType=EndecaDrivenCat&rte=%252Fcategory.jsp
            %253FitemId%253Dcat48920744%2526
            pageSize%253D30%2526Nao%253D0%2526refinements
            %253D&eItemId=prod185590221&cmCat=product

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!?

            To look like a game show host from 1976?

            Does not compute. But I do like the Bill Blass nautical theme with anchor-based heraldry to the Cartier.

            I also like the Pucci ones!
            Also the Valetino slantback Continental.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            You too can look like Al Czervik for only $7,000 USD!

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    There is a simple reason to limit interior color choices – costs. In the automotive sector, with so few cars being sold, it makes no sense to offer anything other than black, grey, and tan – and the recent trend of putting dog turd brown with dark grey is abhorrent. You might get more choices in trucks because costs are spread over 500,000 units in the full-sized segment, but in cars where you are lucky to sell 200,000 units a year, there is no economic case to have interior colors that have a take rate of 10k per year (or less).

  • avatar
    06V66speed

    Perhaps our cries for more variations of color will lead to the resurgence of “Hearing Aid Beige”? ;)

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “When was the last time you saw green leather in a new car?”

    About 1997 I think the Sable (and maybe Continental) had green available.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Home appliances used to come in colors as well. Avocado, gold, rust, etc.

    Now they are all stainless steel (or white if you’re poor).

  • avatar
    redliner

    Oh, how I pine for a deep green. Something like Toyotas Spruce Mica or Chevy’s Rainforest Green Metallic.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Green seems to be a color most companies don’t do well. There have been many dark greens, but too often they just look dark. There are also the modern bright greens which are either not saturated enough or too yellow.

      The electric green on the Mustang was pretty good, and I liked Scion’s green they used for the xB. But even those colors aren’t quite right.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    Most people who order a new car or buy one off the showroom floor probably aren’t planning to keep it long after the warranty expires. That means they’ll be trading it in on something else.

    I think the perception for most new car shoppers is that oddball colors put a ding in trade-in/resale value since most people don’t go and seek out a lime green Camcord, though I’m sure someone would still buy it…eventually.

    Silver and white are perceived as the safe bet.

    That said, I deeply miss my copper/brown ’72 Skylark coupe (first car in ’95) and my Dad’s bright yellow/white ’77 Olds Omega.

  • avatar
    06V66speed

    If its color you want, it’s color you’ll get.

    Behold the Spinnaker Edition Town Car (I’ve never seen blue look so good):

    http://www.cardomain.com/ridepost/4449244/14843478/1995-lincoln-town-car/

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Sajeev sez the unique factory mats in there were very decadent.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Such a tantalizing brougham exterior… only to get inside and be greeted by the usual Panther cheap plastic, worse-than-vinyl leather, and fake wood.

      • 0 avatar
        06V66speed

        Hmmm… I was under the impression that ’95 was a “good” year for TC’s?

        Can’t be nearly as bad as my Fawn Beige ’89. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ’81-’89 TC that didn’t have at least one, if not more, cracks in the dash.

        The leather already had cracks and was wore out by 70k miles. But the cheap metal (aluminum?) dash inserts with faux-wood didn’t bother me nearly as much as it should have.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Dal, you’re not supposed to look at such broughamities!

        The Spinnaker even got real wood on the dash. The switch panels on the doors were still fake (and not matched in color).

        @66
        95-97 is the best year for modern Town Cars, with 95 and 96 preferable over 97, as that last year was cost cut a bit, and the 4.6 that year also saw the plastic intake manifold.

        • 0 avatar
          06V66speed

          Word! Confirmation.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          GM just did late brougham better than Ford, I’m afraid. No Panther can hold a candle to the late-’80s and early ’90s Cadillacs, either FWD or RWD, or even to a box Caprice LS Brougham.

          • 0 avatar
            06V66speed

            Methinks I’ll hold off for a Cartier L.

            ‘Cause I’d like to make my life Hell driving it whilest my kids push lots of buttons in the backseat.

            The struggle is real.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          The 95-7 Town Car is the only Panther I’d actually consider. I found a 96 Cartier with 80k on it for $1,200. Only flaw I could find were the headlamps were a bit hazy and one center cap was missing, both easily fixed. Ill never get rid of my 95 Taurus by choice, but if I lost it to an accident, fire, flood etc, Id run to that Town Car’s owner and yell “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” lol Those cars are so elegant and they drive the best of any Panther Ive piloted.

          I cant justify buying it right now, its just a luxury we do not need. I plan on buying John a 90’s Accord I-4 for a commuter, fixing up the Taurus a bit, and get a truck for doing things a Taurus and Accord cant do (large/heavy cargo, off-road, etc). Eventually, we will get a new Accord coupe or a Civic (we drove both a couple months back and loved em).

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Why haven’t you already bought it? I was under the impression your D186 Taurus was much higher miles.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            It does have high mileage, has 214k now, probably will be over 215k by my birthday (23rd this month). But, we have bigger fish to fry right now.

            We have been on the road so much with it lately, and it has performed very well. 25-30 mpg depending on how I drive it. Gotta get a new TFI module soon, though. Itll be done very soon.

            You gotta understand, Ive always wanted a 95 Taurus with a 3.0L. I love the way they look, drive, etc. The fact that this non-SHO has the AX4N, floor shift, and some other good options makes it special enough to justify keeping. I always have loved these cars. Besides, Ive done some custom interior work on it, not to mention, its the reason John and I met. I simply wont get rid of it unless Im forced to. John feels the same way. He is gone with it right now, actually, to visit his grandmother as Im here visiting my parents.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’d still buy it and keep both. Your D186 could go tits up at almost any time, but with a very low mile’d Sunday car you can press into service your life won’t skip a beat. Not knocking the Taurus, just stating reality of any 20yo high mile vehicle.

  • avatar

    I vote they bring back colors like Mopar had in the late 60’s early 70’s. the high impact colors:
    http://plumcrazychallenger.com/High%20Impact%20Colors.htm
    And everyone else had similar bright colors available. At least on the high performance models, if not all of them.

    Can you imagine a bright pink Imperial?

  • avatar
    Thorshammer_gp

    It’s things like this that make me happy I snagged my 2011 Outback Sport- that’s one of the last factory two-tone cars that comes to mind, and it still gets compliments (not to speak of the funereal black interior, however. Oh well). On the subject of Subarus and car colors, I’m disappointed that they dropped that construction vehicle orange on the Crosstrek, though the new shades of blue are pretty nice.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    My parents 2012 Taurus is in a very nice shade of light green, Ford calls it Ginger Ale. Its what sold my mom on the car, it was literally love at first sight (she had already driven a different new 2012 but didnt pull the trigger, owing mostly to the arrogant attitude of the sales staff at that particular dealership).

    The leather is white, the rest of the interior is a mix of grey (carpet, dash top, some door panel trim) and a light tan (plastics that make up the rest of the door panels, lower dash and center console). It is pleasing, and at about 80k miles, still looks like new. The only interior flaw thus far is the chrome on top of the shifter that has started to peel, and that’s easily explained by their wedding rings scratching it when shifting.

    Their previous 2008 Grand Marquis was Arizona beige with tan interior. If you look up the word “bland”, itll probably have a picture of that car as an example. The leather was awful, it felt cheap and it looked twice its age when I sold the car. There were “scratches” (for lack of a better term) where the seatbelt rubbed on it, and where it touched as they were trying to buckle up.

    Both cars have had regular detailing by yours truly with Meguires (sp?) premium leather care/conditioner. The Taurus has more miles than the G. M. had when I sold it, and youd think the white leather in the Taurus would show more wear being a lighter color and with more use, but the opposite is true. You can really tell which car was intended to be a rental with a 30k-mile life span, and which was designed to serve for many years and look/feel good doing it.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Friend just got a 2015 Focus SE with the random splashes of color in the seats. It was so garrish I about upchucked. Ford definitely took a step back with that one. The fabric inset looked bad in a Neon 20 years ago.

    Of course the car is silver. I feel bad for him because he traded his manual red 2013 Focus SE on a 2015 Escape SE with the 2.0T because baby, and his wife couldn’t drive a stick. Then they traded her 2013 Fusion SE on the 2015 Focus SE because she wanted something smaller. Now she drives the Escape and he drives the Focus. Both cars are grey.

    I’m happier and happier everyday that tangerine scream exists.

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    I think that automotive color is another “enthusiast concern.” If you love cars and you look at cars as a reflection of your personality, then colors are going to be an important thing to you. If you look at your car as a driving appliance, color is going to mean a lot less. Let’s face it, Black, White, and Silver are common colors on refrigerators. They have become common colors on cars. Cars are appliances now more than ever..and it should be no surprise that they are now come in similar restricted color options. Very few people have Canary Yellow toasters in there kitchens. Yes…I blame this mostly on women ;). Women are now more than ever making the car purchasing decisions. Most women view cars like they view their washing machines: it is a practical appliance that should be clothed in a color that “goes” with the rest of decor of the room. Hence, the roads are now awash in black, white, and silver.

  • avatar
    Windy

    Another surprising thing to me is that an outfit like Tesla has so few choices on the variants of the S considering that they are low volume and that they are not building what their nonexistent dealer network wants.

    their website does not even show what the options will be for the newer models

  • avatar
    zeus01

    More variety for interior colors you request? Sometimes too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Case in point:

    Way back in early 1981 I was just over six months out of high school and found myself working as a car jockey/lot attendant at a Jaguar/Rover/Triumph dealership in Calgary. Got to drive around in some spiffy rides: E-types, TVR Tasmins, TR-8’s, etc. – most with black, grey or tan upholstery.

    But I also drove some scary ones: Triumph in their infinite wisdom couldn’t be satisfied with simply bestowing on us the TR7, one of the sorriest pieces of machinery ever cobbled together. They also pumped out a bunch of these door wedges in the late ’70s with tartan plaid seats and door inserts. Herb Tarlek would have been proud.

    Think they couldn’t have done worse? Think again: How about a bright orange 1980 TR7 – with dark blue houndstooth interior? In a convertible yet, so that all those hotties on the transit buses could stare down their noses at the color-bind idiot with such poor taste behind the wheel? All that therapy – straight down the shitter….

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    That Pasha cloth in the 928 is a lot to look at. Not sure I could deal with that every day.

    I personally like interesting interior colors, had a MB 420SEL with cathouse red leather and loved it. I truly hate the off-white leather in some new cars because it shows stains so readily…including blue stains from dungarees.

    In a perfect world I’d have black cars with either red or rich chestnut brown interiors…save my splash of color for the interior. I am in the death care business, so black cars are the norm…

  • avatar
    maserchist

    If the outside is orange, red, or yellow AND the interior is a nice light brown leather, then the vehicle must be Italian and desirable. The more cylinders, the better.

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