The Art of Car Colors

How does Toyota choose the colors for its cars? We asked the people responsible
by Dan Nied
July/August 2018
The Art of Car Colors
Look What Hatched
The 2019 Corolla Hatchback, show in Blue Flame.

It’s not easy to be the Color Materials Finish team at Toyota Motor North America.

Led by Janis Ambrose, senior manager of cross carline strategy, the three Toyota employees who make up the team are charged with choosing the colors for Toyota vehicles.

Sounds easy, right? Well, when you realize the team is trying to predict future color trends five years down the road, you realize the degree of difficulty they’re working with.

So no, the job’s not easy for Ambrose, Victoria Poggetto and Kelly Hyde.

But it is incredibly rewarding. It’s also intriguing, so we sat down with the team to ask about the process. 

Toyota Today: So how do we figure out what colors go on a vehicle?
Janis Ambrose: We look at global and North American trends on a societal basis. For example, right now, there is lots of chaos in the world, so a lot of people want to get a hug every day. What colors come from that? Soft whites, cool grays. We’ll go to TMC and say we need a solid gray in our palette because we have all these things going on. Sometimes we get it, sometimes we don’t.

Say we’re launching the C-HR. Your team decides what colors are available?
JA: Yes, but two years before it launches. We’re working years out. At this point, anything from 2019 and beyond has been baked. We’re working on model years 2022 and 2023. So, we have to predict where color is going four to five years out.

Bringing Brown Back
Brown had long been absent from Toyota’s color lineup, but it returned as Opulent Amber for the 2019 Avalon.

How often do you take risks with color?
Victoria Poggetto: We’re challenged to take risks to get that “Wow!” visceral response. You want the customer to fall in love with it. But obviously it’s a challenge because we’re global, and not every color fits every region. We try to take these one-off risks. Sometimes it’s a hit, sometimes it’s a miss.

What are some risks you’ve taken that stand out?
VP: The brown on the new Avalon. It’s called Opulent Amber. When the light hits it, it looks amazing. Brown isn’t traditionally a popular color. But it’s a really great combination with the interior.

Making a Splash
The Prius c color palette is one of Janis Ambrose’s favorites. The Prius c is shown here in Tangerine Splash Pearl.

What are some other favorites?
JA: Well, 80 percent of the colors we sell are white, silver, black or gray. But sometimes we get to have fun with our colors. The Prius c was the most fun. We got everything we asked for. The whole portfolio of colors was amazing together.  
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