Japan
Automobile
Manufacturers
Association, Inc.

Issue No. 1, 2009

Japanese Theme Colours

by Peter Nunn

carsHenry Ford once famously said, "You can have any colour you like, so long as it’s black." He was talking about the Model T back in 1909 but in Japan today, carmakers would hardly seem to agree with the legendary Ford Motor Company founder.  Dazzling colours of all shades now adorn the motoring landscape, just as they do in the world of home appliances, computers, mobile phones—you name it.
 
So in today's world we could perhaps retool that famous phrase just a bit to read, "any colour you like, as well as black…".

Carmakers rarely use black as a theme colour to launch a new model in Japan, although they are quite happy with white, green, red, blue…even orange.  As each new car comes out, so a decision is made what the theme or launch colour will be.  The tradition then is to use this same colour in brochures, TV commercials, direct mails and posters, to build up the car’s image.

Case in point: Toyota launched its iQ premium micro compact in white.  Subaru went with a metallic blue for its Exiga 7-seat minivan.  Honda’s latest-generation Odyssey looks very striking in purple while Nissan's new 370Z sports coupe is presented in menacing dark silver, purposely chosen to show off the car’s sleek, muscular styling. Mazda caused a stir with the bright metallic green adorning the latest Demio (Mazda2). Why green?  "Our designers said the green was the best colour to express the characteristic shape of the Demio," said a spokesman. 
 
So it’s the custom in all studios to pick a colour that best matches the concept of the new model.  And sometimes that colour really sticks.

Many recall that Toyota's classic 2000 GT from 1967 was nearly always white.  Nissan’s Silvia coupe from 1988 came in light, bright metallic green.  The Beat, Honda's super 660cc open sports car from 1991 was invariably yellow.  Cars from the past, it's true, but how those images stay in the memory.

For carmakers today, colours are a simple, inexpensive and fun way to differentiate products.  It would be interesting to get Henry Ford’s take on that, wouldn't it?