How are Car Colors Chosen and Who Picks Them?

Cars, trucks, and motorcycles come in a wide range of colors, textures and lusters that are dictated by market styling trends, consumer demands and the whim of designers. With the number of new colors to pop up every year, it begs the question: How are these colors chosen and who gives them the thumbs up?

According to the Product Design Office Studio at FCA, a large board is set up that features the complete product grid and lineup by plant. The design group reviews the current color offerings over the last two or three years to determine what colors haven’t been used and discusses which colors are currently trending. However, by the time new colors are rolling off the assembly line other colors might be trending.

“There are rules and guidelines due to the fact not all vehicles are produced or painted at the same location,” noted La Shirl Turner, Chief Color and Trim Designer at FCA. “Overall, we try to make sure that each brand has ‘showroom’ consistency and represents the lifestyle and identity of the brand.”

The group also goes out of their way to get their audience involved in selecting new colors. In March 2018, they held a color clinic in Pomona, California, as part of “Spring Fest 13.” The clinic focused on the Dodge Brand and featured a number of scale model Dodge Challengers that were painted in a variety of new colors. Over 1,800 enthusiasts turned out to vote for their favorite. The group obtained valuable input regarding which colors their customers wanted.

The process of developing new colors is a complicated one. The design group works closely with their painting suppliers like PPG and Axalta to develop the proper production paint. They do a lot of reviews of submissions and there’s a lot of collaborative work. Also, pigments change quite a bit over the years. When trying to duplicate an older color, it often involves reformulating the paint itself.

The group also keeps each of the FCA brands in mind when developing new colors. What works for the Jeep Brand might not work for a Dodge Brand vehicle. And, while some colors overlap from brand to brand, many of the colors are unique to both a specific brand and/or vehicle.

About the author

Nicole Ellan James

As an automotive journalist and avid car enthusiast, Nicole Ellan James has a passion for automotive that is reflected in every aspect of her lifestyle. Follow Nicole on Instagram and Facebook - @nicoleeellan
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