The Inspiration behind a Car Color Name

I recently read two interviews with Land Rover’s Principal Color Designer, Melanie McWhirter. As my readers know, I have an affinity for luxury and sports cars. Often there is a fantastic balance between design and craftsmanship that mirrors fine furniture or attire. With each new model year, technological innovations in materials and electronics enhance the products while design language and lineage is hopefully maintained. In many respects there are significant similarities between automotive and interior design including materials, style, craftsmanship and of course color choice.

What’s fascinating it that there is extensive thought behind Land Rover’s color choices. In fact they have a very specific naming strategy: ‘We have historically utilized a naming policy for our exterior body color range by choosing countries, geographical regions, cities, glaciers, oceans, rivers, mountains, valleys and natural landscapes that inspire or evoke the color. For example, we tend to use rivers, lakes and oceans for blue colors; glaciers and cold climate regions for light blues or silver colors and deserts or warm climate countries for yellows or oranges. This fits perfectly with the Land Rover brand and the outdoor orientated lifestyle many of our customers enjoy.’

More to the point, in the 2012 Range Rover lineup there are a few interesting stories behind the choices:

Nara Bronze – The color flips from a smoky grey to a Bronze highlight.  Nara Bronze is named after the giant Bronze Buddha Statue which sits nearly 50 feet in height and is 1260 years old in Nara, Japan. Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture in Japan which served as the capital of Japan’s monarchy during the 8th century.

Aintree Green – Land Rover historically always offers a British racing green, the latest super sparkly incarnation is named after the British race course.

Marmaris Teal – A blue-green chosen to reflect the color of the sea in the popular tourist destination of Marmaris that rests on the scenic Mediterranean coast of Turkey.

Siberian Silver – A frosty blue-green tinted silver named after the large icy region of Russia that makes up a majority of Northern Asia. “Siberian” is a name that has become synonymous with remote locations and cold weather.

Bournville – This one is little closer to home with the village of Bournville being only 10 miles from the home of Land Rover production plant in Solihull. The area is famous for chocolate, fitting for the exterior dark chocolate brown color.

However for the new and sportier Evoque they selected more extreme colors to resonate with the vehicle’s more contemporary, sporty and dynamic profile. Attracting new, non-traditional buyers by creating an emotional response with color encourages the purchasing decision – perhaps much in the way that red sports cars seems to elicit a certain sense of excitement.

‘The top selling color for Land Rover over recent years is metallic black… [the current version of which is] Santorini black, named after the black sandy beaches of the Greek volcanic island. Over the past few years, white has become far more popular. Color popularity varies radically between our different products. The best-selling color on Range Rover is metallic black with nearly half the vehicles being chosen in this color. Range Rover Sport follows a similar trend with around 40% of vehicles in metallic black. In contrast, the current most popular color on the Range Rover Evoque is white. The brighter more extreme colors of red, lime and bright blue are attracting many customers as well. Defender is most popular in white, closely followed by solid green – in acknowledgement of its agricultural and military heritage.’

But as with all design, stagnation is not an option. To this effect, Land Rover ‘looks at renewing a minimum of three of our exterior colors per model each year. For 2013 vehicles we are introducing an exciting new range of special metallic colors… that utilize the latest pigment technologies and manufacturing techniques, to give exciting color effects and extreme sparkle.’

For a general market comparison, the 2011 DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Report (they’ve been tracking car colors for 55 years!) lists the following colors and popularity:  #1 White and Silver tied @ 22%, #3 Black @ 20%, #4 Gray @ 13%, #5 Red @ 7%, #6 Blue @ 6% #7 Brown/Beige @ 5%, #8 Green @ 2%, #9 Yellow/Gold @ 1%, #10 Others @ 2%.

Interesting too is that color popularity changes by region and country. In Asia, silver is still most popular while Europe leads in bold color trends. For those who have the opportunity to make a choice of color at the point of purchase, it is perhaps no more daunting than choosing a color for a tailored suit or living room furniture fabrics. Although the color of a car can be changed, it isn’t as easy as buying a can of interior paint and repainting your living room.

As for me, my chosen colors are Zambezi Silver and in another brand of car, Hammerhead Silver. In my mind there is something technically correct about the exterior of a car being metallic silver– just like the metal that they’re made from. But I also think the color enhances the curves and shapes of a car under most lighting conditions. Black or white doesn’t give the same shadows, contrast and visibility and bright colors tend to distract from the sheet metal itself.

Next time you make a color decision for an appliance, clothing, furniture or even an automobile, knowing that the available choices were chosen for a purpose might help you appreciate them that much more.

2012 Range Rover Sport in Nara Bronze

2012 Range Rover Evoque in Colima Lime

2012 Range Rover Sport Limited Edition in Santorini Black

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