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GM’s Nesbitt: Color is key to vehicle acceptance

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

How important is color?

For automakers testing car designs in consumer clinics years ahead of production, color is crucial.

Black makes a car look smaller, says Bryan Nesbitt, General Motors' executive director for North America exterior design and global architecture strategy. White makes a car look larger.

The safest bet for a consumer clinic? Silver.

Nesbitt says, “It is amazing, even in our clinic validation process with customers, you cannot show a red car because some people like it, some people don’t.

“They can’t see past the color. It will be like, ‘It is hard for me to look at. I don’t like red cars.’ So you have to neutralize those polarizing variables.

“We go out with silver. Let’s just evaluate the design of the vehicle, not color combinations. And then it is just amazing. You can change the persona.”

He says this strategy is important in a global market because there are many regional preferences for certain colors.

It’s no wonder automakers such as Ford and Chrysler were concerned after Merck KGaA’s paint plant in Japan went down after the March 11 earthquake, threatening deliveries of cars painted with metallic black and red using the pigment called Xirallic.

Says Nesbitt: “It can be the exact same cool parts and just changing the color will make it acceptable in a market.”

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