Ask an SME: Car Colors

How does Toyota choose the colors for its cars? We asked the people responsible

June 05, 2018
My Favorite Color -- Among Victoria Poggetto's favorite color is Lunar Rock, which debuted on the new RAV4 at the New York International Auto Show in March. If you want to see how Poggetto and her colleagues on the Color Materials Finish team choose car colors, watch the the video linked below. 

It’s not easy to be the Color Materials Finish team at Toyota Motor North America.
Led by Janis Ambrose, senior manager of cross carline strategy, the three members that make up the team are charged with choosing the colors for Toyota vehicles.
Sounds simple, right? Well, when you realize that not only is the team trying to predict future color trends five years down the road, they also are part of the North American team communicating to Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) every year, submitting new colors to be added to the global color palette. Trouble is, three other global regions – China, Europe and Japan – are submitting colors at the same time, and TMC only chooses five per year for the 100-shade slate.
So no, the job’s not easy for Ambrose, Victoria Poggetto and Kelly Hyde.
But it is incredibly rewarding. It’s also very intriguing, so we sat down with the team to ask about the process. You can read that interview below.
We also made a video about it. Which you can watch by clicking here.
Editor’s Note: If you have a Toyota or Lexus question for “Ask an SME,” email it to us at
So how do we figure out what colors go on the car?
Janis Ambrose: We look at global and North American trends on a societal basis. For example, you may hear a lot about people trying to unplug or disconnect, there is also lots of chaos in the world, so how does this need for serenity translate to color? Soft whites, cool grays, we’ll go to TMC and request a solid gray in our palette because of these influences. Sometimes we get it, sometimes we don’t.
Toyota Today: What’s the process for working with TMC?
JA: Each of the four worldwide markets submit five colors each year. Out of those 20 submitted, TMC chooses only five to be developed. Those colors end up on the global palette. However, there can only be 100 colors on the global palette at any one time. So those five get added, and five others come off.
OK, so say we’re launching the C-HR. Your team decides what colors that C-HR comes in in North America?
JA: Yes, we have set the palette two years before it launches. We’re working years ahead. At this point, anything from ‘20 model year has been baked. We’re working on model years 2022 and 2023. So, we have to predict where color is going four to five years out.
How often do you take risks with color?
Victoria Poggetto: We’re challenged to take risks to get that “Wow!” visceral response. You want the customer to fall in love with it. But obviously it’s a challenge because we’re global, and not every color fits every region. We try to take these one-off risks. More times it’s a hit, sometimes it’s a miss.
What are some risks you’ve taken that stand out?
VP: The brown on the new Avalon. It’s called “4X9 Opulent Amber.” When the light hits it, it looks amazing. Brown isn’t traditionally a popular color. But we pushed for it because it’s a great combination with the interior.
What are some other favorites?
JA: Well, 80 percent of the colors we sell are white, silver, black or gray. So, for us, having a blue at 5 or 6 percent of sales is actually a really good install rate. But sometimes we get to have fun with our colors. The Prius c was the most fun. We got everything we asked for – like Tangerine Splash Pearl, Sparkling Sea Metallic and Electric Lime Metallic. The whole portfolio of colors was amazing together.  
By Dan Nied

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