A sample of the colour palette offered on the Fiesta
A sample of the colour palette offered on the Fiesta. Click image to enlarge

By Jil McIntosh; photos courtesy Ford Motor Company of Canada

If you’re waiting for a hot-pink Lincoln or a lime-green F-150 with a bright red interior, don’t hold your breath; but royal blue from a Japanese kimono, or rusty orange from an Indian rug? That might well be a possibility on your next vehicle, according to Ford.

A new global vision, partially inspired by customers who can tap into almost any culture via the Internet, helps to guide the company when it comes to choosing colours, said Susan Swek, Ford’s chief designer of colour and materials design. Faced with one of the longest lead-in times of any consumer product, Swek and her team must assemble a palette that contains both “core” colours – grey, silver, black and white – and some brighter “trend” colours. The team has just finalized the colours for the 2014 model year and is working on 2015. Part of what takes so long is that a new paint can’t just be a popular shade, but has to go through a year of weathering to be sure that it can stand up to the elements without fading or peeling.

In Canada, silver/grey is the top seller, with some 22.3 per cent of buyers going for it, according to a new study commissioned by Ford. “Silver has actually been a huge seller for a long time,” Swek said. “It’s probably because silver looks good on almost any type of body style you put it on, anything from a small car to a truck, a large car or a crossover. It works with a lot of different varieties of body styles.”

Susan Swek, Ford's chief designer of colour and materials design
Susan Swek, Ford’s chief designer of colour and materials design. Click image to enlarge

Canadians are less enamoured with black, at 14.1 per cent of buyers taking it, followed by blue (13.6 per cent), red (11.6), white (6.9), green (6.0), gold (3.8) and orange (0.4). Each region has its preferences, as well. The highest percentage of gold and red cars is bought by Atlantic Canadians, while Albertans buy the highest percentage of blue cars, followed by Quebecers. Black cars are most likely to sell and blue cars most likely to be turned down in Ontario. Manitoba and Saskatchewan take up the highest percentage of green cars, followed by British Columbia; prairie dwellers are also the most likely to choose white. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of colour: Swek said that Ford’s research shows that up to 40 per cent of buyers will walk out of a dealership if it doesn’t carry a vehicle in the shade they prefer.

Choosing the colours to offer is a combination of market research and “eyeballing,” Swek said. “Design is kind of an intuitive thing,” she said. “You look at the product and you know it’s right or it’s not right. For example, on the Fiesta we have the Lime Squeeze, and we just wouldn’t put that on a truck because it wouldn’t look well on that body style. If we put green on a truck, we would go for a darker green. We do offer some colours that we call ‘trend’ colours. The hot magenta on the Fiesta is a one-year trend colour, where it’s polarizing. A lot of people won’t like it, and a lot will buy it.” Cars wearing these one-year-only trend colours are offered in small quantities, usually around three per cent, “but if it’s doing much better than expected, we’ll carry it over,” Swek said. “Other times we’ll do special limited runs with unique colours.”

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