Behind the scenes with Atlas: Color selection and the new Racing Green
May 11, 2020
Herndon, VA — For the first time, the Volkswagen Atlas will be available in Racing Green, a new color that gives the seven-seater SUV a sophisticated presence to match the exterior and interior upgrades. While Racing Green is not the only new addition to the model’s color palette, it is the most radical and is the result of a four-year process involving extensive market research and the input of Volkswagen employees around the globe.
Racing Green gives customers a refreshing option outside the traditional Volkswagen palette staples like white, black, silver, blue, and red. At first glance, the seven seater has the appearance of a sleek, dark-colored SUV but takes on a dark green hue the closer one gets. Its metallic finish adds a glossy, premium look.
The 2021 Atlas color selection process kicked off with the North American Region (NAR) designers in 2017. After initial discussions with Wolfsburg, designers received a market briefing and customer profile. A model’s target customer is a big consideration the designers keep in mind throughout the process as every color in a model’s palette is specifically chosen to appeal to them.
The typical Atlas customer wants an SUV with the space to run errands, transport up to seven people, and perform daily tasks like the commute to work. While typical Atlas customers need a vehicle to endure the wear and tear of daily life, they still want a premium looking model to reflect the investment they have made.
Because of the emphasis on utility as well as style, Atlas customers want a traditional and timeless color. Both within the midsize SUV segment, where it makes up 25 percent of sales, and in North America, white is the most popular vehicle color and is a staple in any vehicle’s color palette. Red and blue are also popular colors, each having about 10 percent of sales.
Besides the target customer, designers have to consider a vehicle’s overall character. 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.
After receiving the initial customer profile and making their own briefing, designers spend countless hours on trend research to predict which colors will pique the interest of buyers four years into the future. Current market trends play an important role in consumer preferences and even affect how staple colors like grey or red change over time.
Trends in clothing, interior design, cosmetics, and architecture are common areas of inspiration for the designers. As a result, many new models sport colors like tan, beige, and warm grey, inspired by the low contrast color trend in industries like interior design. When researching the Atlas palette, there was a growing trend towards green in those industries.
“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 initially selecting green, the designers found the Racing Green shade in the fifth-generation Passat palette from the 1990s. In fact, the new Racing Green was also considered for the 2020 Passat as a callback to the previous generation. Besides the Passat, the Golf R most recently sported the color in the Spektrum program and was one of the ten most popular colors.
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.
While the new Racing Green color for Atlas may share the same name as previous models, it has an entirely different paint code and appearance. 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.
From their research, North American designers make a color recommendation they believe will speak to the target market, though some of the color recommendations may never make it to production. After receiving the designers’ recommendations, designers and developers in Wolfsburg centrally plan the model’s color palette as well as develop and test colors that do not yet exist in the Volkswagen palette.
Once the colors are developed and planned, a preselection workshop is held to facilitate a cross-functional company decision. In the case of the Atlas, the workshop was in Puebla, Mexico with employees from around the company including the Atlas product planning team, G3 (large vehicle) marketing, purchasing, and controlling. At the workshop, the Wolfsburg and NAR designers present the color choices to the employees and receive feedback.
Based on the requests of dealers around the country, the updated Atlas offers a new dark brown interior color, Mauro Brown. The designers presented Racing Green, Cypress Green, and Burgundy Red as three options to pair with the dark brown interior. While neither Cypress Green nor Burgundy Red made the final cut for the palette, both were the result of market and trend research. Employees at the workshop made their decision based on the financial impact as well as which color was most aesthetically pleasing with the Atlas.
Racing Green, originally under consideration for the 2020 Passat, was already aligned with the Chattanooga paint shop’s water-based priming technology specific to the plant. Unlike metallic colors that require two different pipelines to paint the car, which costs more, the Racing Green coat is able to achieve its metallic color with only one paint pipeline.
Once workshop participants made their recommendation, upper level executives in the North American Region assessed the aesthetics and financial impact of the color. After a decision was reached by the North American Region, Klaus Bischoff and Oona Scheepers, heads of VW design and trim, agreed on the final decision.
Besides Racing Green, two other updated colors, Pyrit Silver Metallic and Aurora Red Chroma and replace previous silver and red colors in the Volkswagen Atlas color palette. The Pyrit Silver Metallic follows the changing color trends of silver and grey in industries like interior design, where they are evolving to become lighter and more expressive.
Aurora Red Chroma reflects customer demand for a more premium looking color. While initially associated with a sense of sportiness, red has also come to represent luxury and wealth to buyers in the region. Within the North American Market, red continues to be one of the most popular colors, more so than any other region. Unlike the previous red, Fortana Red Metallic, the new Aurora Chroma is less saturated, with a coral hue at its base with an extra top coat to give a deeper, more luxurious color.
While Racing Green, Pyrit Silver Metallic, and Aurora Red Chroma are exciting new additions to the palette for model year 2021, designers are already looking to the future and researching colors for future Atlas models.
Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is an operating unit of Volkswagen Group of America and a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, with headquarters in Herndon, Virginia. Volkswagen’s operations in the United States include research and development, parts and vehicle processing, parts distribution centers, sales, marketing and service offices, financial service centers, and its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Volkswagen Group is one of the world's largest producers of passenger cars and Europe's largest automaker. Volkswagen sells the Arteon, Atlas, Atlas Cross Sport, Golf, Golf GTI, Jetta, Jetta GLI, Passat, and Tiguan vehicles through more than 600 independent U.S. dealers. Visit Volkswagen online at www.vw.com or media.vw.com to learn more.
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Exterior color options will vary based on model, trim level, and package combination and may increase price. See dealer for details.