How’s this for a way to kick off a week? Fiat just dunked a 600e crossover in a vat of orange paint with its CEO inside. It’s a stunt that puts huge faith in door seals, but also one that raises a big question: Why? See, Fiat is thoroughly done with grey, and a bold cause sometimes requires a bold statement. Consider this a declaration of war on an important part of the German rainbow.
The war on gray is a noble pursuit. Matte gray is stale, solid gray looks like wet primer, and most metallic grays are just dull. It’s the beige of the modern era, a neutral choice that’s so common and joyless that it just doesn’t sparkle. According to PPG, 14 percent of cars sold globally in 2021 were gray, up two percent from 2020. While interesting grays exist, they typically have different-colored pearls or microflakes, or something to add a pop of color that isn’t gray.
As of today, Fiat has committed to banishing gray from its lineup, with CEO Olivier Francois stating that “Italy is the country of colors and, starting from today, Fiat’s cars too.” So far, it seems to be a European change, but it could branch out to other markets. More importantly, this means that Fiat’s European color range now consists of two oranges, three blues, two greens, one red, one rose gold color, and if you want to be boring, white and black. Nothing resembling an overcast sky here.
While Fiat is unique in its anti-gray crusade, other manufacturers are giving bright colors a helping hand. BMW has been expanding the reach of its extended Individual palette of colors to include limited shades at plants not set up for the full program. For instance, the San Luis Potosi plant where the M2 is made isn’t ready for full Individual yet, but the M2 will soon be available in Frozen Portimao Blue, a matte medium blue that’s a bit off-the-wall. At the same time, Porsche’s PTS extended color palette has soared to new popularity in recent years, and the bright fuchsia Ruby Star Neo color has made it onto the standard color menu for 911s and 718s.
On the other end of the market, the Chevrolet Trax has a massive range of actual colors, from metallic orange to nuclear snot yellow to blue to pastel green. Needless to say, I’m a fan of the yellow, as it’s just so distinctive on today’s greyscale roadscape.
So what about the main argument for gray — resale value? Earlier this year, automotive data company iSeeCars crunched the numbers on how color affects depreciation. It turns out that yellow cars depreciated the least over three years of ownership, with orange, green, and red right behind. Unsurprisingly, gray was right in-line with the overall average depreciation rate of 22.5 percent, so popping for the bright color may actually save you money in the long run.
What’s more, automotive paint giant BASF reports that the tides may be starting to gently shift in regard to grayscale colors. In 2022, chromatic colors gained overall market share, with violet emerging as an unlikely winner of 2022. Admittedly, these aren’t huge gains, but a win is a win.
Moving back to Fiat, while it’s easy to dismiss this stunt as just another bit of film fakery, the marque actually dipped a real 600e into an enormous vat of paint with the actual CEO inside. The craziest part is that Francois doesn’t even come out looking like an Oompa Loompa — the door and window seals actually hold well, keeping him fairly dry. Whatever Fiat is making its door seals out of should be the gold standard because I would’ve never expected such a successful outcome.
It should go without saying, but do not try Fiat’s stunt at home. A little bit of liquid is fine, but cars just aren’t made to be submersible. Spray water on a car, and you might clean it. Dunk a car in water, and you’ll probably total it. However, sacrificing a pre-production car that most likely had a non-registerable VIN for the sake of art is always a good idea. If it needs to be destroyed for legal reasons anyway, you might as well do something fun with it.
(Photo credits: Fiat, BMW, Thomas Hundal, BASF)
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