The Really Strange Thing About New Car Colors

You must have noticed by now that the new car paint colors are looking rather dingy. Where we once saw color-changing metallics and three-stage pearl white paints, we’re now seeing Army grays, military greens, and muddy mud colors. In fact, they remind us of the colors of the 1940s and early 1950s American cars reborn. Everything old is new again when it comes to this latest trend in paint colors. 

When did this change in new car colors start?

Nardo Gray Audi
Audi RS6 Avant in Nardo Gray | Audi

The writers at the LA Times noticed, and just wrote a long article about the change in our car color choices. Color trends always come with analogies from paint company soothsayers. They use terms like “sense of adventure,” “stealthiness,” or “harmony and nature.” Say what? 

But owners definitely want them, these aren’t those vehicles dealerships stick in the back row. They sell for premiums, with automakers like Porsche offering Chalk paint. And some of these colors are only available for limited durations, adding yet another incentive to flash around with an exclusive color on your new car. 

Supposedly, this started in 2013 with Nardo Gray, a solid gray without metallic or pearl, available on Audi RS 7 sedans. It soon expanded availability for Nardo Gray to other models after seeing how popular it was. They visually stood out because they’re so opposite of the bright blue and red metallics we come to expect on BMWs, Mustangs, and Dodge Hellcats. 

Are the new cars with these putty colors selling?

Santa Cruz
Hyundai Santa Cruz in Sage Gray | Hyundai

While internally, carmakers know which colors find favorability or not, mostly that information is impossible to come by. So the Times looked at how quickly certain putty-painted models sold. According to a spokesperson for Hyundai, the Santa Cruz pickup painted in either Blue Stone or Sage Gray sell quickly. 

Enthusiasts know that the three most popular colors going back decades are Black, Whilte, and Silver. They comprise 75% of cars sold in the U.S. So in a way, Gray and other muddy colors are an extension of those paint preferences. 

Some of these paint colors look like primer gray

Chalk Porsche
Porsche Taycan GTS in Chalk | Posche

Of course, Primer Gray is the color of choice for those choosing to modify their cars. It has been this way since lakes racers first hit the dry lakes outside of Los Angeles in the 1930s. As you modify your car, you spot in gray primer until your modifications are complete. Then, if you can afford to, you give your ride a decent 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 a color with no shine. Sort of like a colored primer. 

How “premium” are these new car colors?

Pink Taycan
Porsche Taycan in Frozen Berry | Porsche

These Cheap New Cars Come in the Best Colors

Others say the trend grew as we all became more environmentally minded. 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” paint program allows buyers to have their cars painted to the exact color they provide to the Stuttgart automaker. That starts at a $23,000 premium. But pre-approved colors from the program run around $11,000, and many fall into a muted world of gray greens, muddy beiges, and washed-out pinks. When they’re presented as ultra-premium colors, how could any Porschephile resist?