How Ford Knows Which Car Colours Will Be Trending Years in Advance


When creating a new car colour, Ford’s designers have to look at a diverse range of societies and predict how changing moods will affect colour preferences. The designers then combine that with knowledge of how trends in design disciplines are changing to create colours that look on-trend, nearly half a decade after they were developed.

The design process starts four years ahead of a vehicle going on sale, with Ford’s designers researching trends across the major design disciplines. “Our designers regularly get together and we look at what’s happening in architecture, products and interiors,” said Emily Lai, Design Manager, Colour and Materials Design for Ford.

Once the design team has a feel for where design trends are heading, they must become social scientists. “Colour choice doesn’t just reflect your personality, it also acts as a reflection of the circumstances around you,” explained Lai. “If you’re amongst a lot of pressure and stress for example, it will affect your choices and moods.”

A clear example of this came after the 2008 financial crisis, when economic concerns drove people to worry more about the resale value of cars. As a result, conservative colours dominated vehicle sales, as buyers tended to prioritise appeal to future owners over self-expression.

The Global Financial Crisis also drove ‘safe’ colours choices as a reflection of the mood of the time. Austentacious colours would be confronting, even disrespectful to your fellow citizens

In the Middle East and Africa, the hotter climates make lighter colours more appealing. A study conducted by Berkeley Lab Environmental Energy Technologies Division and published in Applied Energy journal, proved that lighter coloured cars reflected much more heat than darker coloured cars and kept the interior as much as 11% cooler than an identical model in black. White cars also tend to hold their value better on the used car market, while blue cars tend to lose the most.

Colour choice is key. PPG Auto Coatings – one of the three major global suppliers to the automotive trade – carried out a study which showed that 60% of people said colour was a major factor in their buying decision. More than half of them said that if the colour they wanted wasn’t available in the showroom, they’d wait until it was.

“Ford’s vehicle lineup in the Middle East is very diverse, and a colour that performs well on one vehicle in one market won’t necessarily perform as well in a different country,” said Crystal Worthem, Marketing Director, Ford Middle East and Africa. “It’s a challenge that keeps us on our toes.”

Across most vehicle types, there are staple colours that don’t often change. These include whites, blacks and solid colours like reds. These colours perform consistently so aren’t often updated. But periodically, advances in paint technology make changing the colour worthwhile. Changes in car design also have an impact. “The shapes of cars and ways of using materials change, and different paints respond differently to that,” said Emily Lai. This means as car shapes become more dynamic and sporty, expressive colours will be popular for their ability to complement the exciting vehicle forms.

Sports cars lend themselves particularly well to colourful extremes. The Ford Mustang is available in a choice of bright and vibrant colours that not only tap into the car’s excitement and emotion, but also reflect its proud heritage. Grabber Blue, a colour first made available on the 1969 Shelby Mustang, is available across the Mustang line-up – as is Lightning Blue, a darker metallic hue that echoes the shades of Liquid Blue used on the Ford GT, Mustang GT350R and Raptor show cars. Both colours are new for 2017.


3 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Car Colours

Colour blindness is much more prevalent in men.

An estimated 1 in 12 men globally are colour blind, while the ratio for women is only 1 in 200. Ford’s designers are regularly tested for colour acuity as their job requires being able to spot small tonal differences in colours.

Colours have meanings

Black means prestige and luxury, which is why it is common on vehicles used for business. Earthy tones like bronzes denote heritage and nature, and are increasing in popularity because of trends in jewelry and fashion. White is pure, inviting, and fresh – great for young families.

A lot of thought goes into a colour’s name

A colour’s name should reflect the design team’s thought processes. Once the colour has been produced, the team involved looks at what the effect of the colour is and how it reacts to different light sources, before choosing a suitably evocative name.

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