The Acura TLX prototype, above, is one of a slew of cars at this year's NAIAS with a jewel-like, dark red paint finish. (David Coates / The Detroit News)
Walking around the North American International Auto Show is much like observing the parade of fashion on the Golden Globes’ red carpet. Beyond the technical specs, for the style-watcher, there is a dizzying array of color and fabric that we just may see in the showrooms soon.
This year we saw many deep, jewel-tone reds — not the classic orangey-red or primary color red so popular of late.
Ford and Lincoln call it “Ruby Red,” and you see it on a Ford Focus 5-door hatchback. It’s as beautiful on that car as on the more upscale Lincoln MKC. Over at Lexus, an RC 350’s ruby shade is dubbed “Infra-Red.”
Buick alone offers four deep, dark reds in its color palette: “Copper Red Metallic” (new for 2014), “Crystal Red,” “Ruby Red Metallic” and “Deep Garnet Metallic,” so dark that it’s almost black.
At Jaguar, we ran into “Italian Racing Red” on a shimmering $116,000 SJR. A dark red Jeep Cherokee shows the automakers’ “Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl,” an earthier hue, calling to mind the orchard rather than the jewelry store, but with the same deep tone.
Jane Harrington, PPG Industries’ manager of automotive color, noticed the reds as well as she walked through the NAIAS 2014 this week.
“There is a magenta blue cast to those reds; very fashion-influenced,” she said. “A couple of years ago, we were seeing a brickier, yellow-cast red.”
The red cars really pop against the sea of white vehicles that dominate every automaker’s display. White is still the most popular automotive color for consumers (followed by silver), but Harrington has noticed an uptick in red’s popularity.
“Red has increased on mid-sized cars, based on our last popularity data, from 2013. If you think about it, red is very iconic for the automotive industry. It’s a very powerful color — also very noticeable.”
From her walk-through, Harrington said she believes there is even more of a trend this year to blue than red. Porsche showed its new Targa in a bright, primary blue.
“I thought there was quite a bit more blue than in past years,” Harrington said, “mostly a very bright, intense, reddish-blue. And then a couple that were greener, not teal, but a greener-influenced blue. Audi had one on an SUV and there were some navys, including one on the Cadillac concept vehicle.”
Some of the more unusual colors are Buick’s “Midnight Amethyst Metallic,” a black with a deep purplish glow, and Ford’s “Dark Side,” as seen on a Taurus at the show. “Dark Side” appears to be black, but upon second look, you see a teal-ish green in the right light. This isn’t, fortunately, the teal that seemingly never dies on so many beat-up 1980s cars, but an inky-deep mystery — hence the color name.
“Very sophisticated,” Harrington said. “And the color names are meant to intrigue you, as well.”
Color blocking is a trend in fashion, and there is an automotive equivalent, with strong primary colors placed together in some car interiors. A glittering, jewel-like Lexus LF-NV featured bright “Sunrise Yellow” leather trim in the car’s interior, alongside black leather. At Mercedes Benz, some of its models had lines of bright red trim accenting dark interiors.
At BMW, we were stopped in our tracks, literally, by that pungent, “Age of Aquarius” greenish yellow that pops up every few years (we remember it well on the Pontiac Vibe). Some call it chartreuse; BMW calls it “Austin Yellow” — the automaker names its colors after racing tracks, so this one honors Austin, Texas.
While the popular coppery brown of a few years ago is still around, you see it more in the earthier brands such as Jeep. And indeed, Jeep’s head of interior design, Klaus Busse, said they take their color cues from nature, rather than fashion.
“We are using colors and materials to define the brand character and give it some soul, to get the car away from being just a commodity,” Busse said.
The Grand Canyon is one of Jeep’s inspirations, and the color palette of the canyon factors into the choice of metal trim color used as well. Chrome, that ubiquitous automotive trim, cannot be found in a canyon, of course. “At the Grand Canyon you see all these beautiful earth tones, and so now we use copper and not chrome,” Busse said.
Jeep also draws inspiration from Mt. Vesuvius in Italy, with its strong brown tones, but also the dark blues of the sky, with cloud-like white as a contrast. And Jeep has an Icelandic color package.
“It’s cold in Iceland, there are no blooming trees, it’s gray and cold, and yet it’s beautiful,” Busse said.
Looking at some of the new options, cloth seats aren’t necessarily a less-desirable option than leather seats. Jeep’s Icelandic package includes the use of traditional Nordic fabric for the seats, and Busse said the felt-like cloth is unusual enough that it leads some consumers to assume that it’s a more upscale model than the leather.
Most importantly: In the wake of Polar Vortex, you won’t need your seat warmers with the Nordic cloth seats.