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July 6, 2024

Matte car colors in muted earth tones are hot — but the trendy paints come at a cost

Rivian launched its “Earth Tones” palette in 2022, inspired by “greens from Pacific Northwest forests” and “reds and oranges from Colorado hills and canyons.” Rivian
  • Earthy, muted shades are becoming increasingly popular among car buyers, according to the LA Times. 
  • Brands from Jaguar and Rivian to Jeep have recently launched new subdued, matte palettes. 
  • The colors are a marked departure from the metallic, shiny paint used on many traditional cars. 

Gone are the days of gleaming, metallic cars that shimmer in the sunlight — nowadays, car buyers are seeking out new rides in subdued earth tones.

The muted cars are suddenly popping up everywhere, lining freeways and parking lots in unassuming shades of gray, black, brown, tan, and green. According to the Los Angeles Times, the trend first hit the streets in 2013 when Audi debuted its popular Nardo Gray hue, but it’s accelerated in recent years as demand for the colors grows.

Now, carmakers from Jaguar to Jeep have broadened their color schemes to include these matte shades, enticing car buyers with nature-themed hues like “Red Canyon” and “Glacier White” — shades within Rivian’s “Earth Tones” palette launched in February 2022. 

“What we might also refer to as ‘flat,’ matte finishes don’t shine like traditional car finishes,” Kelley Blue Book wrote in a 2022 blog describing the trend. “The term ‘stealth’ comes to mind when we see a car in matte gray or matte black. ‘Hot’ pops into our heads when the matte finish is in another color.”

But be warned – the buzzy shades aren’t cheap. The hues typically are available only for select cars, often luxury models and sports cars, and can mean upcharges of anywhere from $400 to $10,000, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Designer Nina Suess in front of a Jaguar F-Type in a special color theme during the Jaguar Land Rover presentation, Special Vehicle Operations in 2021 in Munich, Germany. Gisela Schober/Getty Images for Jaguar Land Rover

“People are willing to go up a trim level and pay a surcharge for these colors because some cars look best in [them],” Ivan Drury, director of information at the automotive information service Edmunds, told the LA Times. “It’s, ‘Hey, if you like this, you better get it now, because you are never going to see it again in this model.’ “

This kaleidoscope of muted car colors was anticipated by Paul Czornij, head of automotive color design in the Americas at paint supplier BASF, who told Axios in 2021 that consumers can expect more complex hues and textures.

“Remember, your car is an outward expression of who you are,” Czornij told Axios. “The color hue, how bold or muted it is, depends on what you’re trying to project about your personality.”

Beyond personal expression, others say the trend is inspired by rising interest in eco-friendly living and sustainability.

“We are seeing social/political movements that are responding to this environmental concern and drawing much attention to using less artifice and moving to that which is perceived of as real and natural,” Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, told the LA Times. 

Regardless of the reason, consumers seem to be responding. Derek Joyce, a spokesman for Hyundai Motor North America, told the Los Angeles Times that the muted shades of its Hyundai Santa Cruz model are outselling more traditional hues. 

The styles are also picking up steam on TikTok, where users are sharing videos of their matte cars, or of transforming old models using the new trendy paints. 

“You can never go wrong with matte black,” wrote one user.

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