It can take five years or more to design a vehicle. Every nut and bolt, every weld, every piece of plastic and carpet has to be planned. Hours are spent with engineers and designers trying to meet in the middle while program managers attempt to keep them on budget.
One of the most often overlooked aspects of vehicle development is paint colors. It’s the first thing people see when they look at the vehicle but most of them don’t know how long it takes to develop just the right paint color. In the case of Volkswagen’s new Racing Green, it took four years.
The green hue is a fresh take on British Racing Green.
Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG
The idea was formulated after gathering extensive market research and the input of VW employees from around the world. Volkswagen officially started the extensive process in 2017 at its North American Region designers. The team received a design brief after initial discussions at Volkswagen’s HQ in Wolfsburg, Germany. The brief included information about the market and customer profile of the vehicle.
That profile was of an Atlas owner. Those that purchase the largest SUV in VW’s lineup typically use their spacious model to run errands, transport up to seven, and perform daily tasks like commuting. While the vehicle must stand up to the wear and tear of daily life while delivering a competitive mass market price tag,
Volkswagen’s designers understood that Atlas owners also want an emphasis on style. Though white is the most popular midsize SUV color in North America making up about 25 percent of sales, Atlas owners would be open to a new color that was both timeless and traditional. Red and blue are also popular colors, each claiming about 10 percent of sales.
The North American design team also looked at the vehicle’s overall character. According to Volkswagen, “As a larger SUV, the Atlas tends to look best with understated colors that make it look more discreet. Bold colors can be overwhelming on larger models like the Atlas but can be a great fit for sportier models like the Golf GTI.”
Volkswagen’s team was charged with making a paint color that would work well for such a large vehicle- a big challenge.
Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG
The team’s next step included pouring over hours of trend research and studying the market in an effort to predict what could be popular four years in the future.
“At the time, green was being adopted in industries like fashion, cosmetics, and interior design,” said Jung Lim Park, Senior Color & Trim Designer at the Design Center California. “When consumers are willing to invest in a color by painting their living room walls green or buying a green couch, it is a good indication they will be willing to follow a similar trend in their next vehicle.”
After receiving the North American designers’ recommendations, designers and developers in Wolfsburg planed the model’s color palette as well as develop and test colors that do not yet exist in the Volkswagen palette.
Designers also researched past color palettes. They discovered that a shade of Racing Green had bee used on the fifth-generation Passat from the 1990s.
According to VW,
“Racing Green is a similar shade to British Racing Green, which has been a popular enthusiast color in the automotive industry. The color came into existence during the turn of the 20th century when the Gordon Bennett Trophy was an international competition for automobile racing, and the national entries were differentiated by color. Cars competing in the Trophy were color coded by the country they represented: blue for France, black for Italy, red for the United States, white for Germany, and green for England. The first successful English car, a Napier, was painted a very dark shade of green that was at first called Napier Green, then British Racing Green when it was used by different automakers.”
Designers settled on a new version of Racing Green for the Atlas after initially considering it for the 2020 Passat. While the new color may share a name with previous colors, it has an entirely different paint code and appearance.
Volkswagen describes what makes it different: “Previous VW models sporting the namesake color were direct callbacks to the classic British Racing Green, but the new color is a modern adaptation of it—the designers gave the classic color a darker hue and more metallic appearance to meet modern color trends.”
Once the colors were developed and planned, a preselection workshop was held to facilitate a cross-functional company decision. That’s fancy corporate talk for “getting all the integral players to the table.” For the Atlas, that meant going to Puebla, Mexico for a workshop that included the Atlas product planning team, G3 (large vehicle) marketing, purchasing, and controlling. There, designers presented the color choices and received feedback.
The story doesn’t end with the assembled personnel just selecting the new Racing Green. It ends with a new dark Mauro Brown interior color that was specifically requested by dealers. Racing Green was presented alongside Cypress Green and Burgundy Red. Cypress Green and Burgundy Red were ruled out.
The reason Racing Green made the cut is little more complex than “just because they like it.” Unlike metallic colors that require two pipelines in the paint shop for application, Racing Green only requires one. The Atlas is produced at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, which has a paint shop that utilizes water-based priming technology resulting in only one pipeline being installed. Racing Green could easily be added to the paint rotation without a plant investment expenditure.
It passed the budget test. Then the recommendation was passed on to executives in the North American region, who signed off on it and sent their decision to the desks of Klaus Bischoff and Oona Scheepers, heads of VW design and trim, agreed on the final decision.
And now, here we are. Racing Green has a new life on the 2021 Atlas as a hue that gets darker green the closer you get to the car. It has a metallic finish that gives it a glossy and premium look.