Three shades of gray

Dear auto industry,

Why are you taking color from the world?

When writers say “color,” we mean words and phrases that add energy to writing. This letter isn’t about that kind of color.

Medium gray.

Medium gray.

I recently went to your auto show as part of my car-buying journey. Buyers can’t drive vehicles at the show, but you can do the important stuff. You can sit in the car and comfort test the seats with a quick nap. You can play with the gadgets. You can watch the sales guy steam when the two-year-old sticks his lollipop on the leather interior.

Most importantly, you can gaze at the sea of color. You can close your eyes and think about what color would best reflect you during errand runs for the next 10 or 15 years.

Except you couldn’t.

Welcome to the 2013 vehicle color palette: white, pearl white, tan, light gray, medium gray, platinum gray, shimmering black, and midnight black.

Every carmaker offered at least one actual color. A hideous color, such as Alien Green. No, I didn’t add “alien” to emphasize the ugliness of the green. Alien Green is the actual color and the color’s actual name.

Midnight black.

Midnight black.

Tornado Red. Not Tomato Red, which might be ugly but at least tomato describes a shade of red. So what is Tornado Red? Hideous. But not as hideous as Tangerine Orange Pearl, which sounds like a V8 fruit juice.

Then there was Toffee Mocha Brown. Redundant, yes, but it tells the buyer this car is really, really brown. Like toffee. Like mocha.

The only real options available for today’s new car buyers: white, pearl white, tan, light gray, medium gray, platinum gray, shimmering black, and midnight black.

One brochure had a blue car on the cover.

Me: So I could get this car in blue? Temptress Blue Metallic?

Salesman: Ma’am, that’s Tempest Blue Metallic.

Pearl white.

Pearl white.

Me: Isn’t that what I said? You must need your hearing checked. Anyway, could I get that color?

Salesman scratches his chin. I’m pretty sure blue is only available in models with a diesel engine.

Me: So the 2013 semi trucks are Temptress Blue? That must be fun to drive into Billy Bob’s Truck Stop.

Salesman: Let me make a few calls.

A few calls later …

Salesman: Apparently this car is offered in blue in European markets. I had my manager check our computers and there isn’t one single blue model in the five-state region.

Me: Why do Europeans get all the color?

Salesman: Well, if it’s color you want, let me show you the Tornado Red.

Auto industry, please take note: if writers used your palette of non-color in our books, we’d all be self-published. And that’s almost as bad as a bailout.


The new owner of a platinum gray car.

2 thoughts on “Three shades of gray

  1. Mike

    Try buying a new car when your first requirement is that it has a 5-speed manual transmission. When I shopped for the new Forester, I had two color choices in vehicles the dealer could locate anywhere within a thousand miles — marine blue and teal green. (I didn’t want to wait.) The blue one didn’t have the options I wanted so…it was the teal green, and which I did, fortunately, like. Even at that they had to truck it in from Duluth. Will never give up shifting…even for a really cool color.


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