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You probably noticed paint colors on many new cars look rather dingy. Where we once saw iridescent metallics and three-stage pearl whites, we’re now seeing army grays, military greens, and muddy beiges. They remind us of the colors of 1940s and early-1950s American vehicles. Everything old is new again in the latest trend in car colors

When did this change in car colors start?

Color trends always come with analogies from paint company soothsayers. They use terms like “sense of adventure,” “stealthiness,” and “harmony and nature,” the Los Angeles Times reports. Say what? 

But these vehicles aren’t stuck in the back row on dealership lots. They sell for premiums, with automakers such as Porsche offering muted hues with names like “Chalk.” And some of these car colors are available for only a limited time, adding another incentive for customers to cruise around with exclusive car paint colors on their new rides. 

Supposedly, the trend began in 2013 with Nardo Gray, a non-metallic gray on Audi RS 7 sedans. The German automaker soon expanded availability to other models after noticing Nardo Gray’s popularity. The solid color stood out because it’s the polar opposite of the bright blue and red metallics typical of BMWs, Mustangs, and Dodge Hellcats. 

Are new cars with these grayish colors selling?

Internally, carmakers know which colors find favorability, but that information is nearly impossible to come by. So the LA Times looked at how fast vehicles with putty-hued exteriors sold. According to a Hyundai spokesperson, Santa Cruz pickups painted Blue Stone or Sage Gray sell quickly. 

Enthusiasts know that the three most popular car colors for decades have been black, white, and silver. They comprise 75% of cars sold in the United States. So, in a way, gray and other muddy colors are an extension of those paint preferences. 

Some new paint colors look like primer gray

Chalk Porsche
Porsche Taycan GTS in Chalk | Posche

Primer gray is the color of choice for owners choosing to modify their cars. It has been that way since racers first hit the dry lake beds outside of LA in the 1930s. Primer gray is a common sight until modifications are complete. Then the owner gives the ride a proper paint job. 

But for some, that primer look is a trend unto itself. Many hot-rod and custom-car owners say that once in primer, the car is done. Yet, even some Mercedes-Benz and Tesla owners choose matte hues sort of like a colored primer. 

How ‘premium’ are these new car colors?

Others say the trend grew as consumers became more environmentally conscious. Just look at the names of Nissan’s earthy colors: Boulder Gray, Baja Storm, and Tactical Green. Nissan’s lead color and trim designer Moira Hill calls it “earthy high-tech.” 

Porsche’s “Paint to Sample” program lets buyers provide their color of choice to the Stuttgart automaker. That starts at a $23,000 premium. But pre-approved colors from the program cost about $11,000, and many are grayish greens, muddy beiges, and faded pinks. When they’re presented as ultra-premium colors, how could any Porsche enthusiast resist?


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