The day before St. Patrick’s Day on Tuesday, Mac Mulkins, Fiat specialist for Fiat of Kansas City, pulled out his wallet and showed the four-leaf clover he keeps there.
Mulkins mentioned it just as he finished talking about the popularity of certain shades of green Fiats.
“Verde Chiaro (light green) is pretty popular,” Mulkins said. “It makes up about 20 percent of the Fiats out of 14 colors.”
St. Patrick’s Day is the one of the greenest days of the year. People wear green to school or work, or they attend a St. Patrick’s Day parade where everyone is wearing green. Even the Chicago River becomes green for a day.
But green is not the most popular color for cars or trucks. Not by a long shot.
Jason Sheafer, sales manager at Olathe Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram, said that if you looked at the trucks on his lot, most would be black, white and silver, with maybe a couple that were red.
“It is all very much the same color over and over,” he said. “The same thing is true with the (Dodge) Challenger. When they send them to me, it is black, white and silver.”
Axalta Coating Systems, a global manufacturer of automotive coatings and an authority on color and color trending information for the automotive industry, breaks down the popularity of automotive colors in an annual report. In its 2013 report, white was the most popular color in North America with 26 percent of sales. In fact, white, black, silver and gray make up the top four spots and 73 percent of all vehicles. Green is near the bottom with 2 percent.
There is an exception to those figures, however. The 2015 Dodge Hellcat Challenger in Sublime Green (a bright lime green) is a hot commodity right now.
“Of the five or six Hellcat Challengers we have sold so far, at least three have been that color,” said Andy Foster, general manager at Gladstone Dodge Jeep Chrysler Ram.
If you see a new car this year that is green, more than likely it is a Fiat, a Dodge Challenger or a Ford Fiesta.
The interesting thing about the popularity of green in the Fiat and the Challenger is these two particular cars couldn’t be more different.
The Fiat is a small, Italian car.
“The Fiat overall, is a good economy car,” said Terry Hines, sales manager at Olathe Fiat. “Engineering is probably the best thing I like about the vehicle. It has a well-built design, especially when it comes to handling and overall power.”
One of the things that makes the Fiat unique, Mulkins said, is it drives in an Italian manner.
“You are going to feel the steering,” Mulkins said. “You are going to feel the road. A lot of the suspension systems out there have been designed to almost isolate you where you don’t feel the road. The Italian approach to driving is it is a fun activity. That is how they designed the car – so it is fun.”
With 707 horsepower, the 2015 Dodge SRT Hellcat Challenger is another fun car to drive. The Challenger and the SRT Hellcat have been so popular recently that Dodge can’t keep up with the demand.
“It is just an old school, retro-style muscle car,” Foster said. “It harkens back to the early ’70s when horsepower was king.”
Sheafer calls it a throwback to the late 1960s and early ’70s that had box-frame style, two long doors and smaller windows.
“It is an iconic muscle car,” Sheafer said. “Fuel economy is decent for a car like that. We are concerned about the environment and fuel economy, but this is one of those cars you add to the lineup that is straight old fashion, good American fun.
“If you want to go out and punch the power down, you have horsepower and torque at your fingertips. They are just fun to drive.”
The shades of green are what make these cars similar. Part of it is heritage. The Verde Chiaro in the Fiat dates back to 1957.
“It is very nostalgic,” Hines said. “You don’t have many brands today that offer that shade.”
Foster said the Sublime Green in the Challenger goes back to the late 1960s when passion colors were popular.
So how much does the color of a car matter for customers? Foster said it ranks in the top five of features that buyers look for.
But it is not normally the most important factor.
“To be honest, they will tell you initially, ‘I want a blue this or a black that or a red this,’ but at the end of the day, price and availability rank higher every time,” Sheafer said. “It is an important factor when people are shopping for cars, but I would say one out of three buy the color they thought they were going to get. It is not as high on the list as you would think. Technology and safety mean more.”
Still, if a car buyer must have a certain color, a dealership will do everything possible to deliver it.
“I’d probably say 20 percent of the time people have a particular color in mind when they come in,” Mulkins said. “I’d say 80 percent of the time they are not going to waver from that color. I get that. You have people who are flexible in a color, but you really want them to walk out to the car every day and love it. That means finding them what they want.”
As for St. Patrick’s Day and the color green, Mulkins said he has sold a green car to an Irish person. He didn’t mention if it was on St. Patrick’s Day.
“I am a wee bit Irish myself,” Mulkins said.
Mulkins, though, was working on St. Patrick’s Day on Tuesday. The weather is warming up and people are out looking for cars of all colors.
On Monday afternoon, Olathe Fiat and Fiat of Kansas City had customers coming in looking at cars.
“Springtime, people want to get out,” Hines said. “They definitely come in.”
Hines figures they sold about 100 green Fiats last year. Mulkins said 20 percent of their Fiats sold are the Verde Chiaro color.
And with the latest installment of the “Fast and Furious” film series – “Furious 7” – opening April 3 featuring a Sublime Green Challenger, expect to see a few of them on the highways. You will definitely notice it.
“When you get a color like Sublime Green, it just pops,” Sheafer said. “The car stands out.”
Axalta Coating Systems, , a global manufacturer of automotive coatings and an authority on color and color trending information for the automotive industry, came out with its Global Automotive Color popularity report for 2013. This breakdown from Axalta is for North America, including Mexico. In its report, Axalta said, “white continued to increase in popularity and remained the most popular color choice for the seventh consecutive year.” A more detailed breakdown can be found at www.axaltacs.com.
▪ White: 26 percent
▪ Black: 20 percent
▪ Silver: 14 percent
▪ Gray: 13 percent
▪ Red: 9 percent
▪ Blue: 7 percent
▪ Brown: 5 percent
▪ Yellow: 2 percent
▪ Green: 2 percent
▪ Others: 2 percent