It’s Time to Make Fun Colours Free

It’s a reality few of us like to face, but it’s true: when it comes to what we drive, we prefer to do it the boring way.

Sure, sports cars are cool. So are rugged off-roaders and fast wagons. But when they’re done up in some variation of silver, grey, black, or white, they aren’t much to look at. Worse still, we’re paying for the paint more often than not, with even Honda charging $300 to finish the Civic in white these days.

But I have a solution that could save us all from our descent into this drab abyss: automakers need to charge even more for the most vapid hues. Want a white Civic? That’ll be an extra $1,200. How about a silver Ford F-150? Tack $2,000 onto the selling price.

Of course, that’s only half of the plan. Should you be bold enough to pick something fun – say, blue, yellow, or burgundy – it shouldn’t cost you a dime. That’s right: make interesting colours a no-charge choice.

Now, before you call me crazy, consider the success some brands are seeing with at least somewhat similar approaches. Take Genesis, for instance. As part of its all-in pricing model, Hyundai’s premium division doesn’t charge customers for their preferred paint choices. That means a Cardiff Green GV80 will cost you the same as a Himalayan Grey one.

While it might not quite be the same as the plan I’m proposing – after all, the brand isn’t charging for the understated stuff, either – there’s more than just anecdotal evidence to suggest it’s working. According to Eric Marshall, National Sales Manager for Genesis Motors Canada, the take rate on non-traditional colours (blue, burgundy, green, etc.) currently makes up 40 per cent of the brand’s sales. But that’s not always been the case

“Going back to when we launched the brand,” Marshall said, “we launched with two vehicles: the G90 and the G80.

“We took a little bit of a traditional approach and we predominantly ordered black cars with black interiors, and white cars with black interiors…and for the 2017 model year, that represented 92 per cent of our sales.”

But as consumer interest grew, so, too, did requests for more interesting colour combinations. That’s when the brand recognized the need to adapt its approach, with sales of non-traditional colours jumping to 40 per cent the following year.

“What we realized is that there was a bigger opportunity here, and because we’re a digital brand and we transact online, we’ve got that ability to take the customer from building their vehicles all the way to the ordering… we started to get into a different type of approach,” Marshall said.

The 2019 Genesis G70 was the first time the brand gave buyers the chance to pre-order the car they wanted, and it immediately saw incredible success.

“It was great, because customers could then commit to being the first – the only requirement was to put down a $1,000 deposit,” he said. “But it allowed us to collect data as far as colour combinations and what customers want.”

He said the results were non-traditional colours representing 50 per cent of sales for the brand, with blue leading the way.

“Because we’re online, we opened up the entire gamut of combinations,” he said. “So you can have any exterior/interior colour; we just put it all out there and let the customers tell us.”

For three consecutive years, blue was the leading colour choice for the G70 – not something that’s typically seen given the popularity of, say, black with a premium sedan like that. The brand continued its pre-order approach as it expanded into the SUV market, and while said Marshall results are mixed, with traditional exterior colours being among the top choices, what Genesis is seeing is an increased interest in colourful interiors.

“As a consumer, you may want to choose a traditional colour for the outside, but then you have the ability to give a special note to the interior of the vehicle,” he said. “For the GV70, 60 per cent of all interior colours are not black (and) within the total sales, 30 per cent have a blue interior, and 20 per cent have a red interior.”

According to Marshall, even the larger GV80 has seen a high interest in standout interior choices, with 62 per cent of sales featuring something other than black. In fact, blue represents 20 per cent of sales, while a green and brown combo is another 10 per cent.

That tells me we all have it in us to try something fun – perhaps we just need a little push. Maybe my proposal is a little extreme, but it makes me hopeful that people smarter than me can come up with a way to encourage shoppers to opt for interesting paint choices. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to express yourself. It might not even cost you a dime to do it.