car buyers: India’s new-age car buyers are opting for brighter, single-model shades that define brands, personality

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Henry Ford once famously offered the Model T in any colour, as long as it was black. Indian car buyers gravitated to the other end of the palette, having a well-known preference for white or silver.

Not any more, it seems. India’s young, aspirational consumers are now opting for brighter, bolder colours such as purple, yellow, red, blue and, yes, black, as they switch to larger, feature-rich, sports utility vehicles (SUVs).

“The Fearless Purple on the Nexon, Sunlit Yellow on the Harrier and Cosmic Gold on the Safari (all recently introduced) are developing their own community of admirers looking to express themselves via the vehicles they drive,” said Vinay Pant, head, marketing, Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles.

Automakers are also using colours to communicate brand positioning.

“Some colours go well with the brand value we are trying to communicate,” said Shashank Srivastava, senior executive officer, marketing and sales, Maruti Suzuki India, the country’s biggest carmaker. “We zeroed in on the Nexa Blue, after going through colours prevalent at fashion shows at the time, to connote sophistication and elegance.”

Signature shades
“Then, there are character colours we decide upon for certain models,” said Srivastava of Maruti Suzuki India. “For a vehicle like S-Presso, aimed at young buyers, we opted for orange. For Swift, which is about performance, red goes well with our messaging.”

South Korean automaker Hyundai says nearly a third of the demand for the recently launched Exter SUV has been for the khaki colour option, which is a shade of green.

At Maruti Suzuki, Nexa Blue accounts for as much as 27% of the sales of the Grand Vitara and the Fronx. “The right colour shades attract immediate audience attention, as they make the product stand out in the marketing collaterals – TV commercials, billboards, brochures and digital content,” Pant said.

Tata Motors is seeing rising demand for its so-called Dark edition – up to 30% of sales. These feature an all-black theme, while the Red-Dark edition comes with red seats and accents on the exterior. The company is also seeing healthy interest from buyers for the Fearless Purple option in Nexon SUVs and the Sunlit Yellow that the facelifted Harrier is available in.

While white still accounts for 43-45% of SUV sales at Maruti Suzuki, things are changing.

“There seems to be a clear divergence in choice of colour in SUV/MPV category compared with the erstwhile dominant hatch, vans, sedan segment,” said Srivastava. “Darker shades like blue, black have seen an increased contribution in SUVs and MPVs, (while demand for) lighter shades like white, silver, grey has declined.”

Sales of blue and black Maruti SUVs have gone up by 9% and 5%, respectively, in the last five years. Colour preferences differ city-wise, but brighter colours are preferred in the south and north-east, Srivastava said.

While consumers previously preferred white and silver, which are easier to maintain and make smaller cars look bigger, there is an increasing preference for darker shades, especially when it comes to larger vehicles, said Tarun Garg, chief operating officer at Hyundai Motor India.

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