Automotive Color Trends of the Year

“Ask the Expert”: Q&A Column with Nina Karsten

Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that's why it's so complicated.

-Paul Rand

In the automotive world in 2023, what is considered to be the “color of the year”?

We have noticed a lot of interesting, finely nuanced color tones on new cars lately, often in the direction of blue or green. You also see quite a few very nice, unusual, often lighter solid colors with little or no effects in the exterior. Certainly, this is a trend. But the classic colors remain relatively stable, according to statistics.  And that's no surprise. In addition, be able to resell a car at some point, many people will opt for long-lasting colors, as they may also expect to keep their car longer than has been the norm. Therefore, many are likely to play it safe and choose a color that will still look good a few years down the road. A sensible thought.  A general fashion color that changes every year is unsuitable for a product like a car. Of course, this does not mean that new, interesting nuances are not allowed to develop.

OEMs have significant focus on sustainable choices, with some opting for vegan leather, recycled plastics and beyond. Do you see the same trend of selection when it comes to coatings?

Yes, we are being asked about sustainable solutions almost permanently. Like all other automotive suppliers, coatings manufacturers have to ask themselves: Where can we save CO2? How can we be more sustainable, what solutions can we offer? In general, paint has a protective function, it extends the service life of the finished good and has a high influence on a company’s foot print. That is, of course, positive at first. As far as coatings themselves are concerned, single-layer coating systems and the use of renewable raw materials are important approaches we are already offering. However, it is often the processing that causes the most CO2. The subject of recycling is another task. We are also working on this, because it is clear that circular economy remains the goal. Particularly in the case of automobiles, this is a huge challenge.

Some interior parts may be specified with a ‘soft touch’ coating – could you describe this a bit further, what makes a coating be classed as ‘soft touch’?

This question is a bit like being asked to describe "sweet" and "sour"…  I'll try it this way: "Soft touch" is simply a surface that feels soft and pleasant to the touch. A bit like soft skin or like a sage leaf. However, the sensation varies from person to person. When describing the different levels and characters of softness, people use words like silky, dusty, rubbery, creamy, velvety and so on.... However we choose to describe the finish, it is designed to offer a pleasant, comfortable touch.

Studies have shown that consumers want colors that catch the eye and create excitement, contributing pride in ownership. With the influx of new OEM brands and manufacturers, particularly in the Electric and Autonomous Vehicles market, do you see the design changing and if so, how?

With the entire automotive industry currently undergoing such major change, it's hardly surprising that so much is happening in car design as well. New features are changing the shape, startups want to show off and make their own mark while established OEMs have to transfer their brand recognizably into the future. New lines in exterior, but also in interior design, are bringing about new surfaces. Design with light is a big topic, iridescent effects underline the idea of change and changeability. It's really obvious: a lot of things are currently being "renegotiated" in automotive design. Current showcars make this very clear. Mankiewicz is closely working together also with light designers as this is a team approach.

When we think design, sometimes we think about aesthetics. Can coatings also provide functional properties?

There are many functions that can be integrated into the paint. It unifies components, it protects surfaces from negative environmental influences, it cools, it can have an anti-static effect and it can be equipped to repel dirt. These are just a few examples.

We’d love to know … the passion you have for design – what inspires you when presenting options to our customer base?

Of course, there are large design fairs where current trends are shown and discussed. But you can also find inspiration in many other places. Sometimes you just have to go for it.  There are fantastic surfaces like old tiles or peeling plaster, there are wonderful colors like you see on insects, flowers or in the water of mountain lakes. There are great packaging or book designs, there are wonderful traditions or craft techniques, there are crazy new ideas or social disruptions. All of these can be inspiring. But what's really important to me and the entire design team at Mankiewicz is that we need to see the themes we present for ourselves and feel the connections.  For us, "story telling" is inseparable from "story feeling". I think the designers we work with appreciate this authenticity in our work.

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