In December I was invited by Nancy Lockhart, Global Product Manager, Color, at Axalta Coating Systems, to tour the company’s Color Viewing Room and Color Studio in Clinton Township, Michigan. Each year, Axalta introduces a new set of automotive colors as well as a trend book, and here, designers can see these latest colors and themes firsthand.

Nancy refers to the Color Viewing Room as a “designer’s crayon box.” Customers can select from Axalta’s latest colors and look at them both digitally (showing how the color would look on a total vehicle) and physically on panels. Nancy stated that most designers go right to the real panels (which are available in both flat and curved designs), so that they can see the finish up close and view how the color travels. Visitors can also observe the panels underneath a variety of lighting options, such as daylight and fluorescent.

Adjacent to this room is the Color Studio, featuring a spectrum of automotive colors designed for the future of automobiles. This year’s theme is “Color Combo”. Nancy stated that color combinations are trending in the automotive industry, such as two-toning, different color roofs, stripes, and solid and metallic combinations. Axalta introduced six different “color duo” families, which were developed using the combined relationship of color trends, color formulation, color technology and forecasted color popularity.

  • Comeback Duo – This group plays with solids and effects, and was designed in response to the increasing demand of colors inspired from the past. For example, Solid Luck and Effect Fortune are sage green versions of Axalta colors and offer unique hues in both light and dark versions. 
  • Contrast Duo – These high-contrast shades are available in light and fashionable metallics, or dark, luxurious colors, such as Dark Horizon and Light Skyline shades of blue.
  • Popular Duo – These colors explore how mainstream color spaces are developed for mass consumer acceptance and mass customization options. This duo represents worldwide favorites with high usage rates on cross-vehicle types. Individual Sunlight and Traditional Sunrise are yellow and beige concepts in this duo family.
  • Smart Duo – This color duo showcases the differing color spaces that can be used for vehicles with LiDAR or Radar technology to detect other vehicles. Autonomous driving and fuel economy will influence color choices in this category, as high-tech vehicles will require color spaces to be optimized for coatings detection and transmission. Axalta colors Optimized Wisdom and Common Sense make up the Smart Duo, combining luxury, style, and practicality in their black color tones.
  • Topnotch Duo – Here, familiar colors are updated with new technology. The colors in this duo demand attention with new technology that offers premium effects. The duo pairs colors with worldwide appeal alongside colors designed for a luxurious finish. The pairing of Signature Bliss and Facelift Delight features deep, rich reds that evoke emotion. 
  • Power Duo – The colors in this duo have surprising characteristics of highly chromatic colors and uniquely muted color spaces. These colors are specifically designed for smaller vehicles and offer shades that are both playful and sporty. Bright Lagoon and Muted Bay are teal hues that appeal to a wide variety of audiences. 

I found the Smart Duo category very interesting. Coatings solutions are being developed to use on vehicles that will use autonomous vehicle detection systems, such as LiDAR and Radar. For LiDAR, reflective coatings serve as a key enabler for detection. And while darker colors, including black, remain popular in the global automotive vehicle market, they are typically made with carbon black and thus have low reflectivity. Axalta is developing dark colors without carbon black to ensure better reflectivity. The use of radar units behind plastic fascias will require coatings to have high transmissive properties. Color formulations with high aluminum content will not be sufficiently transmissive. In one example, Axalta utilized a combination of aluminum and pearlescent pigments into a silver metallic effect to develop the color Optimized Whiz for optimum radar performance.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Axalta’s beautiful, colorful office. Thank you Nancy for an interesting and enlightening tour. I look forward to visiting again!