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Colour matters in cars

Publication Date : 21-05-2012


When Kia Motors took the wraps off its new premium sedan K9 early this month, the automaker carried out an experiment by introducing the car in brown rather than typical black.

Brown is gaining popularity in overseas markets, especially Europe, as the colour goes well with the beige seat covers of high-end cars. And now Korean drivers are recognising the colour’s beauty.

“Brown is ‘the new black’ in the global car industry. We thought the rare colour would appeal to the luxury tastes of Korean consumers as well,” said Jang Su-jin, colouring manager at Kia.

Neutral colours such as silver, white and black are still dominant here. But the trend seems to be gradually changing.

According to a report published by leading chemicals company DuPont, silver represented nearly 30 per cent of the Korean car market last year, followed by white at 25 per cent.

Black slipped to third place with 15 per cent, down nine percentage points from 2010, while non-neutral colours saw increased popularity with a combined 19 per cent, the report found.

Currently, the move toward more car colours is primarily in the small cars, expecially import car brands.

Japanese carmaker Nissan launched its Cube in Korea last year in eye-catching colours with evocative names such as White Pearl, Bitter Chocolate and Scarlet Red.

In the early days of the launching, White Pearl led more than 60 per cent of Korean sales, but now the chocolate shade makes up 21 per cent of sales here.

“Contrary to expectations that the colourful cars would appeal more to female drivers, the gender ratio of our consumers is nearly 50:50,” a Nissan Korea spokesperson said.

For the Chevrolet Spark, the two best-selling colours are Monaco Pink and Sapporo White.

Despite market skepticism before the launch, pink accounts for about 33 per cent of the almost 5,000 Sparks sold here every month.

Korean auto giant Hyundai Motor Group, which owns Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors, has also started to put more emphasis on colour.

Since the success of the Hawaiian Blue Sportage in 2004, unique colouring has become a key strategy for Kia, leading to the consecutive hits of its boxy compact cars ― the Soul in 2008 and the Ray in 2011.

Adding to pastel hues such as Milky Beige and Aqua Mint, buyers can pick and choose from a host of customization features, including exterior decorations, for the box cars.

After previous colouring attempts with smaller vehicles, Kia launched the full-size sedan K9 in Titanium Brown, considering that luxury car consumers are getting younger and want more diverse styles.

“In the past, we used to follow the colour trend of our competitors. Now we use colour to differentiate our vehicles and lead others,” said Jo.

Han Hong-min, chief designer at Hyundai Design Centre, said Korean consumers are still passive in expressing themselves through colours compared to Europeans and North Americans.

“Unlike European consumers who are willing to wait for months to choose their favorite colours, quick-tempered Koreans prefer typical colours that are more available,” he said.

Han pointed out, however, that colour preference has become more diverse across vehicle segments here and carmakers are paying more attention to colouring.

Hyundai Motor, which broke away from traditional designs first with the three-door hatchback Veloster last year, unveiled the nation’s first matte coloured car Veloster Turbo recently.

Together with matte gray, the turbo-version Veloster comes in vibrant colours such as Sunflower Yellow and Chameleon ― a colour that the company said changes when viewed from different angles.

“The colours of large sedans are also getting brighter here with brown gaining popularity globally. We plan to offer high-end drivers more luxurious metallic colours using new materials,” he said.


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