Sometimes automakers alert the media when they are about to announce something big. A few weeks ago, Ram did just that. We perked up here at Autoblog: What big news was coming? The revelation of the little Ram pickup? The Hurricane straight-six entering the Ram 1500? We anticipated these developments. Instead, it was this: a special edition for the TRX and Rebel called the Lunar Edition – an appearance package based on a paint color called Ceramic Grey.
More gray paint isn’t the excitement we expected.
It’s called the lunar edit because the surface of the moon is gray. When Buzz Aldrin surveyed this austere landscape in 1969, he declared it “magnificent desolation”. It seems like a negative connotation if you’re trying to sell trucks, but Ram’s marketing people may be too young to remember that.
It turns out, however, that Ceramic Gray is quite interesting – it’s part of a new generation of gray paint on cars. For perhaps the first time, gray is turning heads on the road.
Until now, gray was one of the most boring colors an automaker could offer. Maybe not as bad as the proverbial beige Camry, but close. Anonymous. Dull. Any. A non-color, in fact. Gray is achromatic, between black and white. Or, gray can be achieved by basically using all colors, like taking all the food in your fridge and blending it in the blender. And about this appetizing.
Still, gray is the third most popular car color, and we’ve never figured it out. White is the best seller, with 26% of the car market. Nothing wrong with white. It has good visibility, and paradoxically can look clean even if it’s dirty, so that’s good. And white is often a free color option. Black is next at 22%. Black cars look fantastic, at least for the first half hour after washing them. Everyone owns a black car once in their life, and once is usually enough.
And then there’s gray, at 18.4%. This means that almost one in five cars is grey. If you group gray and silver together – sometimes the difference can be a, well, gray area – they account for almost 1 in 3 cars. And for decades grays have been a commonplace medium to a charcoal metallic dark wood. Millions of Mercedes, Audis and BMWs wear this color. In the office, we call the white-silver-grey-black spectrum “the German rainbow”. Together, they account for 78.6% of all vehicle sales in the United States.
THE real the colors that surround us in our natural world are also rans, with blue at 9.5%, red at 8.6%, and others like orange, green, or yellow at less than one point percentage each. By the way, these prettier colors help a vehicle retain its value. Gray is not good for this, although black is definitely an expensive choice.
BMW i4 in Brooklyn Grey, a more modern take on the old “German Rainbow”. The new i5, which was just unveiled on Wednesday, wears a cool gray that appears to be more traditionally metallic.
A long-held myth claimed that dogs could only see in black and white. So what, were people choosing cars they thought their dogs would like? The best guesses as to why the gray has been popular are (a) dealerships tend to order it as an uncontroversial choice that won’t linger in the field, so car buyers took what they could get. Or, (b) buyers don’t care or don’t care.
In my opinion, gray is a security issue. For the record, when I first saw an oncoming vehicle, it was dark, gray. Here in Seattle, or on dark winter days anywhere, a gray car is a dull hazard – gray against gray pavement, gray skies, gray buildings. Luckily the daytime running lights helped a ton. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has shared research on car color safety indicating that white or yellow are the safest colors (note that fire trucks are lime yellow these days). But it has been difficult for researchers to pin down the security issue. Different drivers, different weather conditions, etc., present confounding variables. If light colors seem to offer a slight advantage, it is reasonable to think the opposite for dark colors.
Note that deer hunters and road workers do not wear gray safety vests.
Given the unclear science regarding the safety of car colors, the IIHS says buyers shouldn’t get too hung up on color, but should focus on buying a car with big headlights, strong crash test results and advanced safety features. But hey, a light color can’t hurt.
New day for gray
Suddenly, however, the gray veil lifted. Gray has become cool. All around us on the road, gray paint jobs bear little resemblance to those that have come before us. Many are solid colors or “pearls” rather than metallics. Some lean towards blue or green, and lighter, cooler tones, seemingly matte or creamy, reminiscent of “milk paint” finishes on furniture.
Why is gray so popular and what about these new shades? Here is the opinion of Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, who reads a lot:
“One of the reasons gray family colors are popular for automotive is that they are so comfortable to live in, and as a possession that we typically keep for a long period of time, it’s important that the color we choose can stand the test of time, which grays do.
“There’s also a strong psychological appeal to grays. Whether it’s a cool gray hue that leans towards the blue or lavender side or a warm-infused brown-toned gray, the colors of the gray family also signifies a high level of minimalism and understated chic, as solid and timeless.
“And then there are the shimmering silver, pearl and iridescent shades of gray whose message of sleek modernity and futuristic appearance sparks our imaginations to imagine new futures in sci-fi fantasy or a journey to the greater galaxy. “
Of course, you can always buy one of the old dark Germanic grays, for example a new BMW 3 Series in Dravit Gray Metallic. But you can also get it in a lighter, fresher and more modern Brooklyn Grey. The just-unveiled 2024 BMW 5 Series was shown in something similar to Brooklyn, but brighter. The i7 which has also just been unveiled is also grey, but a bit more traditional.
You can get your Kia K5, Telluride or most of the range in sleek and intriguing Wolf Grey. The Stinger is available in Ceramic Silver (Ceramic being the same name used by Ram).
A Honda Accord looks great in Urban Gray Pearl, or a Civic in bluish Sonic Gray Pearl.
I would like a GT-350 in traditional white and Shelby Blue, but Avalanche Gray on this car was sharp, and Avalanche appears on other Ford models such as the Ranger or F-150. Volvo currently offers Thunder Gray Metallic; it paired Osmium Gray with its Amber interior, a striking combination.
For years we’ve had dark, dull – Buzz Aldrin would say sorry – gray cars. Automakers are finally coming up with something better for those who say gray is OK.
Again: Days after Ram announced the Lunar Edition, it rolled out the Special Edition Ram Rebel 1500 Havoc – in lively Baja Yellow. So you can always choose a real color.